As part of Playbill Pride 2016, we set our sights on the next generation of LGBTQ artists whose diverse perspectives, experiences and aesthetics are shaping the course of the American theatre.
Throughout the month of June, we will profile 16 LGBTQ artists whose work is changing the way we view gender, sexuality and life both onstage and off. Check back tomorrow to see who is revealed next.
Tarell Alvin McCraney
WHY HE MATTERS:
The 35-year-old playwright made waves with his Brother/Sister Plays trilogy: The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet. McCraney, who utilizes rituals, rhythm, poetry and mythology to capture the African-American experience of today, has earned himself numerous accolades, including the MacArthur “Genius” Award. His play Head of Passes—inspired by the Book of Job—received its New York premiere at the Public Theater this spring starring Phylicia Rashad.
What is your earliest memory of theatre?
Dance. My first engagement with live performance and narrative was dance. I saw [the] Ailey second company do portions of Revelations, and I also saw scenes (as part of a parade) that were from the performing arts program at the high school across the street from my house.
Who has been especially crucial in your creative development?
That list goes on like a “Mug.” Can't even begin to mete out the thank yous and bless yous necessary.
Who do you regard as a mentor?
It’s interesting. I have a mentor Teo Castellanos, [who has] been my mentor since I was 15. But I also think of him as a colleague, and I feel that way about Amy Herzog, Tina Landau, Katori Hall, Marcus Gardley. People whom I consider colleagues, I learn so much from.
Why do you think theatre matters?
All art remembers us, our humanity.
What’s one thing that surprises people about you?
How shy I actually am outside of performing. I get really nervous being unscripted in front of people.
LGBTQ theatrical moment that most impressed me:
The Angel crashing through the ceiling; Horatio holding Hamlet.
What are the stories you want to see LGBTQ people telling on stage?
Whatever story they want.
Who are the fringe/marginalized voices we need to put center stage?
The ones that want to be center stage. “It ain't for everybody.” -Jay Z
Untapped talent ready to make it big:
You ever been to a Ball... not the big ones; I mean the ones that still happen in like Ohio and Fort Lauderdale? Go.
I wish the theatre had more:
...Young people of color in its audiences.
Favorite artist of all time and why:
Marvin Gaye and Ulysses Dove.
The next challenge I want to take on is:
Being more naked and less afraid. Wish me luck.
I hope my legacy as an artist will be:
I hope my legacy as an artist will be. (Full stop)