79. Tarell Alvin McCraney

Categories: Art
In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer screens November 25, Cultist proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes in random order. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email cultist@miaminewtimes.com with the whos and whys.

Courtesy of Tarell Alvin McCraney
79. Tarell Alvin McCraney

There are certain things you can be if you grow up poor in Liberty City. Some better, others worse, but playwright doesn't often figure into the equation. And a playwright-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, whose plays have already been staged at renowned venues in New York, New Orleans, Seattle, and London, all before you reach the age of 30; there is zero chance of that ever happening. Somebody forgot to tell that to Tarell Alvin McCraney.

McCraney is Miami's number one playwright export, having learned his craft at some of the most renowned institutions in the drama world, including the New World School of Arts, the Yale School of Drama, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble in Chicago (where he became the 43rd member of the acclaimed troupe).

He's currently working on a play in England and routinely leaves the Magic City for more fruitful playwright pastures, but unlike many in the arts who come from Miami McCraney is devoted to coming back often and, eventually, for good. "I've basically been trying to bend my entire career around creating a Shakespeare festival/inner city young people theater in Miami," McCraney says.

And while his formal education included stints at some of the most traditional theater institutions in the world, McCraney and his work are anything but old school. "Often (young people) see plays as a place where they are taught what they are not -- old school passion plays that teach us what life could be if we just did right," he explains. "Well, life isn't always that black and white. And the more young people, gay, straight, black or white, who see that theater isn't reflecting real life, (the more they'll) think this isn't for or about me. So I use a great deal of empathy to try and draw characters that reflect many walks of life."

McCraney's experiences growing up as a gay, black youth in the inner city are evident in much of his work and have helped draw non-traditional audiences to his plays. And his unique voice has already garnered heaps of praise, awards, and distinctions. Even so, he says home keeps him humble, and that's part of the allure.

"In San Francisco, they named a day, September 10th, after me. The city did. I was shocked. I cried. I got home to Miami and called up the drama department at Northwestern High School, which is right around the corner from my house. I told the lead teacher that I was doing a free workshop with some students and would love to do one for the students in the drama program, if they had the time and interest. She cleared her voice and asked me again, 'What did you say your name was again?' I just smiled to myself and thought, Welcome home. I'm still waiting for them to call me back."

1. List five things that inspire you.

-Injustice (it's 'cause I'm a Libra!)
-Sexy (of all genders)
-The ocean and the moon (trust me it counts as one)
-Young people

2. What was your last big project?

Turning 30 without ever having been arrested, shot, on drugs, or getting someone pregnant out of wedlock -- all while being from Liberty City and black.

3. What's your next big project?

Mounting my play American Trade for the Royal Shakespeare Company, while writing the second draft of Choir Boy for the Manhattan Theater Club.

4. Why do you do what you do?

It's fun to see the veteran theater-goer's faces when you start bringing in the never-been-to-the-theater folks.

5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?

I ride the bus and the train everywhere. So stop tearing up (read reconstructing) Biscayne Boulevard at the same time you're tearing up (read pretending to construct) Omni terminal. It's as stupid as shutting down 36th Street for construction during Art Basel! Don't make no damn sense!

What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?

I don't know how to drive. Never learned. Probably never will. I have pedestrian road rage. Can you imagine if I actually had a car?

The Creatives so far:

80. Jennifer Kronenberg
81. Farley Aguilar
82. Colin Foord
83. Karelle Levy

84. Matt Gajewski
85. Antonia Wright
86. Charles Allen Klein
87. Christy Gast
88. Gustavo Matamoros
89. Shareen Rubiera-Sarwar

90. Kyle Trowbridge
91. Clifton Childree
92. Jessica Gross
93. Danny Brito
94. Nektar de Stagni
95. Anthony Spinello
96. Vanessa Garcia
97. Justin Long
98. Rosie Herrera
99. Rick Falcon

100. Ingrid B

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