Hailed as one of the most influential playwrights of our time, Tarell Alvin McCraney, a 1999 graduate of the New World School of the Arts High School Theater program, was radiant as he took to the stage last evening to receive the Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Moonlight. Under the direction of fellow Miamian Barry Jenkins, the independent film, which received a total of eight Oscar nominations, also won the most coveted “ Best Picture” Academy Award while Mahershala Ali, the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, took the stage to receive the award for “Best Supporting Actor, for his role as Juan in Moonlight.”
The thrill and energy was palpable this morning at New World School of the Arts as faculty and busily discussed the exciting awards ceremony and seeing the familiar face of Tarell McCraney now appearing on television screens across the globe.
Dr. Jeffrey Hodgson, Provost of New World School of the Arts commented, “When New World School of the Arts opened 30 years ago it provided a home in our community for creative and talented students to learn, grow and develop in a safe but demanding environment. Over these few years we’ve seen our alumni have incredible success, but nothing matches the pride and joy we feel today for Tarell Alvin McCraney for his well-deserved Academy Award. Just a few weeks ago Tarell was here at NWSA working with current students, alumni and friends to present performances of his own work. This is typical of the Tarell we know and treasure, generously working to support and uplift others through his art. His close personal connection to not just NWSA but the entire South Florida community is something we cherish even more now that the whole world is learning what an incredible artist he is.”
“WOW, what a night!” exclaimed Patrice Bailey, Dean of Theater at New World School of the Arts. “Tarell is so deserving of receiving the Oscar for Best film/screen play. He is a beautiful writer who has had the courage to share his own story with the world. The faculty and I cannot be any prouder of him and the artistic contributions he has made to the film and theatre industry.”
“Tarell has always distinguished himself, beginning in his years at New World School of the Arts,” said acting professor David Kwiat, who taught McCraney when he was just exploring his passion for the stage as a high school student. “He received the Dean's Award his senior year and this led to many, many other awards and accomplishments in his career. We are so proud of him, his talent, his character and fortitude. Tarell truly embodies what is best about the NWSA experience!”
In addition, professor Kwiat shared this most interesting testimonial about McCraney high school graduation day ceremony, “Tarell has always had the ability to distinguish himself. Every year in the spring the high school seniors say their goodbyes to all the faculty and students at a general assembly. The faculty would always sit in the first row and it was customary for each graduating senior to come to the stage and say a few words about each faculty member. When Tarell came to the stage he pointed a finger at each of us and in rapid fire succession, with dizzying speed and accuracy, told each seated faculty member what their astrological sign was. It was astonishing and certainly memorable. Like a true artist, Tarell did his research and made certain that he was going to leave a lasting impression. He did, and he still does, and with absolute certainty, I know he will continue to do so.”
“I think early on students need practice, and that’s the most important thing artists can be given - and that’s certainly what New World did for me,” said McCraney in an interview with Ariel Rubalcava, Director / Senior Producer MDC TV at Miami Dade College, validating that when students are given an opportunity and a safe place to express their art at a young age, the world becomes a different place by the time they mature – weather they follow their artistic path or any other profession.
Just last month Tarell McCraney welcomed 2017 with a Play Reading, in celebration of NWSA’s 30th Anniversary. The Play Reading sessions brought to the New World Dance Theater stage McCraney’s award-winning play – The Brother/Sister Plays, including In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size, and Choir Boy. Presented by New World School of the Arts alumni, who returned to Miami from all over the nation to join Tarell in this unprecedented celebratory event, the cast included the original cast of Manhattan Theatre production of Choir Boy and Nic Ashe, starring in Queen Sugar on the OWN network and Jeremy Pope. Award winning actress Alana Arenas, a Steppenwolf Company member, also joined the cast.
Tarell Alvin McCraney* (NWSA 1999): Critically acclaimed as executive producer of the 2017 Golden-Globe Award winning “Best Picture” film Moonlight (2016), written and directed by Barry Jenkins, based on McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Moonlight is a timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up Liberty City, in a rough neighborhood of Miami. http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/04/movies/moonlight-barry-jenkins-tarell-alvin-mccraney-interview.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
Tarell is also known for his widely recognized trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays: The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet. They have been performed at McCarter Theater in Princeton, The Public Theater in New York, Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, at a trio of theaters in the Bay Area: Marin Theatre Company, ACT, and Magic Theatre, as well as the Young Vic in London (Olivier Award nomination) and around the world. http://www.mccarter.org/tarell/
Originally written in 2012 Choir Boy, another play by Tarell A. McCraney, was commissioned by Manhattan Theater Club in 2013. The play explores The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys – an institution dedicated to the creation of strong, ethical black men where protagonist (Pharus) wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary gospel choir while reconciling his own feelings as a gay young man.
Other plays include The Breach (Southern Rep, Seattle Rep), Wig Out! (Sundance Theatre Institute, Royal Court, and Vineyard Theatre - GLAAD Award for Outstanding Play) and American Trade (Royal Shakespeare Company/Hampstead Theatre). Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he is an ensemble member, produced the world premiere of his commissioned play, Head of Passes in 2013. Tarell was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s International Playwright in Residence in 2009-2011, where he co-edited and directed the Young People's Shakespeare production of Hamlet, which toured throughout the UK and was presented at the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
Tarell McCraney is a 2013 John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation fellow, receiving the McArthur Genius Grant. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Whiting Award and Steinberg Playwright Award, as well as London's Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, the inaugural New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, and the inaugural Paula Vogel Playwriting Award. McCraney is a 1999 graduate from the New World School of the Arts High School Theater program, the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and the Yale School of Drama. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami. Tarell Alvin McCraney was recently appointed as the incoming chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.
About the NWSA Theater program: Theater and music theater students at NWSA hone their craft through acting technique, movement and speech classes, focusing on fundamentals of physical and emotional preparation. With performance at its core, training is based on the classical texts and the principles of drama as well as practical incursions into the contemporary and experimental edges of theater. Consequently, alumni are found performing onstage nationally and internationally and their talent and vision are recognized and highly regarded in the industry.
Other distinguished New World School of the Arts alumni includes Gaby Diaz [So You Think You Can Dance], Melissa Toogood [Bessie Award], Alex Lacamoire [Tony Award], Jencarlos Canela [Premios Lo Nuestro], Russell Thomas [Metropolitan Opera], Katie Finneran [Tony Award], Nick Duckart [Carbonell Award], Hernan Bas [Whitney Biennial], Bert Rodriguez [Whitney Biennial], among many others.
New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.
Information about the NWSA Theater program is available by calling 305-237-3541 or visiting http://nwsa.mdc.edu/