Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Interview Playwrights Part 95: Tarell Alvin McCraney




Tarell Alvin McCraney

Hometown:  Liberty City Miami, Florida

Current Town:  Clapham, London, UK

Q:  Can you tell me about your Brother/Sister Plays Part 1 and 2 which were just extended at the Public?

A:  Sure the brother/sister plays are a cycle of plays that were born out of a great need for me as an actor to reconnect to audiences. They also served as ways for actors of color to work on pieces that were new and invigorated with traditions of the old. Part 1 is In the Red and Brown Water, a piece based on the African Story of OYA/OBA and Lorca's Yerma. PART 2 is a double Bill of Brothers Size which is the first play written in the cycle and Marcus, Or the Secret of Sweet, the most current play. Brother Size is a story about the bond and bounds of Brotherhood and Marcus is a coming out story set on the eve of a tremendous storm. Does any of that make sense? Sometimes trying to distill all of the work down into a few sentences seems like making more mayhem.  
 
Q:  What else are you working on?
 
A:  Currently I am directing a YPS, Young Person Shakespeare, version of Hamlet, for the RSC, Royal Shakespeare Company. We will tour to schools in London playing the show. I'm also under commission here at the RSC for a new piece and will be returning to Chicago in a week to start rehearsals with Tina Landau for the Brother/Sister plays at Steppenwolf. I am sitting in Fivebucks now clutching a  cup of Soy Chi Latte hoping it will get me through the adventure. Wish me luck.
 
Q:  You went to grad school at Yale.  How was that?

A:  YALE WAS/IS AWESOME. The friends I made, the community I will always be involved with,
the love from the faculty, the inspiration from seeing some of the best minds at work. You can't beat that ... It makes it almost a lil' easier to pay back those student loans. 
 
Q:  What is it like being playwright in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company?  What does that entail?
 
A:  Being International Playwright in Residence is awesome! Mostly because there have only been about two others so  the job has quirks and edges to it that expand or contract for the artists. I got to start an edit of Antony and Cleopatra that was really radical. Don't know if the company will do it. But it was awesome to see just where you could push the language. Also now I am directing something for the Company, which I totally didn't expect and I love working on it. I get excited and nervous and scared. They are testing me all the time. I love it.
 
Q:  You've won a heap of awards and for a playwright you're still at the beginning of your career.  I'm not sure what my question is.  I guess, how does it make you feel?

A:  I hope this doesn't sound bad... but my journey as an artist hasn't just begun. I've been doing theater for ... all my life. And I've been working hard at it and trying new things and continuing to do so. For me the awards are sign posts... saying we see you... keep walking working going. Sometimes the sign posts stop coming, I look closer at the road and figure out which way to go. And that's okay because there was a time when there were no sign posts and very few paths. I had to make my own.
 
Q:  Can you tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person?

A:  One day when I was a kid in the projects my dad had gotten me a new bike. My mom lived near the drug hole, where drugs were sold, and we were told not to play too much over there. But I new the drug dealers and they knew me. My dad said he would teach me to ride the bike on the weekend while I was over his house. But I wanted to learn now. Right now. So I took the bike down stairs almost killing myself. And tried to ride it in the street. All of a sudden one of the Dealers on the corner was behind me and telling me to balance and to stay up and he would follow me. I began riding, and pedaling thinking he was behind me the whole time but he had let go a while back. I looked back and he was blocks away. I was half down the street.

The next weekend when my father decided to teach me to ride a bike I pretended and fell a lot so he wouldn't know I had already, learned. When he went in the house I taught myself to ride with no hands and how to stand up.
 
Q:  What kind of theater excites you?
 
A:  All kinds. Too vague? Really all kinds.
 
Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
 
A:  Write the one you are most afraid of... its got all the freedom in it! 
 
Q:  Plugs please:

A:  (Assuming Professional Voice Over Speak)
The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette, Astor and Lafayette has performances of The Brothers/Sister Play from Now until Dec 20th. Check us out.  http://www.publictheater.org/

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