Theatre Arts Department of the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences Hires Acclaimed Playwright and Miami Native

Tarell Alvin McCraney returns home not only to teach at the U, but also inspire and connect with local community through civic engagement program

For Tarell Alvin McCraney, a distinguished playwright who grew up in Liberty City and whose award-winning career has taken him around the globe from New York to London and beyond, Miami is always the place he calls home. His critically acclaimed works bring to light the African-American experience through the lives of emotionally rich characters. The list of highly impressive awards and recognitions he has received, including a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” has helped catapult him to international recognition and reputation.

McCraney now enters the realm of higher education after recently joining the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Theatre Arts as Professor of Theatre and Civic Engagement. Professor McCraney is teaching students the art of acting and drama in the fall semester’s Introduction to Acting class.  

McCraney’s passion for community service goes hand-in-hand with his talents on the stage. When in Miami, he pledges his time connecting the community – preferably children and young adults – with his world of theatre arts.

“What has always been at the core of the work is a sense of community,” said McCraney, “how to engage it, stimulate it, and nurture its growth.”

In addition to his teaching responsibilities at UM, McCraney finds himself with another opportunity to expose students to theatre, and this time the focus is on high school students – specifically young black women who may one day be artistic creators themselves or positive influencers in their local communities.

“The goal here is to create a permanent fixture for the arts through a civic engagement program benefiting young women in Miami’s high schools that will benefit by an accelerated leadership program in drama and theatre arts,” said Chairman of the Department of Theatre Arts and Associate Professor of Theatre History Dr. Stephen Di Benedetto. “Why is Tarell here? He had a chance to grow and learn about theatre arts in Miami, and now he wants to give back to the community that gave to him. Many of the programs he participated in as a young man are now no longer available, but now he has an opportunity to create a program that will build upon the resources of the local community and enrich the lives of the students who participate in this leadership training to have a lasting effect on generations to come.”

The three-year program (a partnership with UM, Miami-Dade County, Arts4Learning, and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center) begins in the summer of the students’ sophomore year and ends in their senior year. In the first year, under McCraney’s leadership, the students will perform a Greek play; in the second year, the students will write a play; and in the final year, when the students are seniors, they will perform a play. The program also pairs the students with UM undergrads serving as mentors and guides during the program. 

“The hope and aim, with the help of partners in the community and the backing of our great University, is to engage, stimulate and nurture artists right here – both on and off the campus, in locales adjacent and not so,” said McCraney. “The goal, ultimately, is to reassure artists in Miami that the ‘305’ is and can be home, and by way of this program, continue to invigorate the cultural capital of our city.”

McCraney is a graduate of the New World School of the Arts High School in Miami, the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and the Yale School of Drama. From 2009 to 2011, he was the International Writer in Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he remains an associate artist and a Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. He is an ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and a founding member of Teo Castellanos D-Projects in Miami.

McCraney’s plays include the acclaimed trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays, Head of the Passes, Choir Boy, and Wig Out! As the Royal Shakespeare Company’s International Playwright in Residence, 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. During the 2013-2014 season, he directed his own edit of Shakespeare’s Anthony & Cleopatra, re-imagined during the Haitian revolution against the French, at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the GableStage in Miami, and the Public Theater in New York.

In 2013, McCraney received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” He also is the recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, London’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, the inaugural New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the inaugural Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, and the inaugural Windham Campbell Award from Yale University. 

October 06, 2015