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 ...