PBS will premiere a new documentary tonight that profiles young playwrights Tarell Alvin McCraney and Rajiv Joseph. McCraney is the super-talented 32-year-old Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright sometimes described as the "heir" to August Wilson's legacy. McCraney—who is openly gay—is also one of the 24 winners of the 2013 MacArthur Fellows.
Playwright: From Page to Stage will be broadcast tonight on PBS’s Independent Lens. The documentary is largely by the numbers but does feature several "candid moments that go deeper than we’re used to seeing," writes Neil Genzlinger in his review at The New York Times.
The film focuses on Rajiv Joseph and his Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and Tarell Alvin McCraney and his trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays. We see Mr. McCraney’s work as it is being produced at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., in 2009.
The film does pick up substance in a couple of spots. At the McCarter, several of the principals wonder bluntly how Mr. McCraney’s work will be received by the theater’s older, largely white audience, since Mr. McCraney is young, gay and black, and his trilogy is drawn from his world. And when it seems likely that Mr. Joseph’s play will transfer to Broadway, those involved with the West Coast production talk glumly about the celebrity-driven reality of Broadway and contemplate who is likely to be replaced. Robin Williams was pretty good in the tiger role in the Broadway production, but you have to feel sorry for Kevin Tighe, the original tiger.
McCraney is only momentarily seen in two of the four online previews offered by PBS—which focus on Rajiv Joseph's productions and Robin Williams. Maybe the documentary or the preview page were completed before McCraney's "Genius" grant. Maybe. But there are a number of videos produced by the McCarter Theater that feature McCraney discussing his influences and his craft. Watch two AFTER THE JUMP ...
This has been an incredible year for McCraney. In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship in September, McCraney became one of the first winners of Yale University's new Windham Campbell Prize in March. That award has a $150,000 cash tag and has been described as "one of the largest literary prizes in the world."
In June: His critically-acclaimed new work Choir Boy made its American premiere in New York. The play explores the competing roles of religion, Black cultural identity and sexual repression at a fictional African-American prep school. Choir Boy debuted in London in September 2012.
Playwright: From Page to Stage is directed by Robert Levi, whose 2008 film Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life "became the first show in broadcast history to receive an Emmy Award for Best Documentary, a Peabody Award, and the Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay." Lush Life was an amazing glimpse into Strayhorn's life. It definitely will be worth it to watch how Levi depicts McCraney and Joseph.
You May Enjoy:
McCraney and Kyle Abraham Win "Genius" Grants
McCraney Talks "Choir Boy" in Google+ Hangout
McCraney Debuts "Head of Passes" at Chicago's Steppenwolf
McCraney Awarded $150,000 from Yale University
McCraney's "Choir Boy" Premieres in London
McCraney Brings "American Trade" to London
Tarell Alvin McCraney Joins Steppenwolf
Billy Strayhorn Documentary on PBS