‘In The Red and Brown Water’ Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney Wins $150,000 Award Prize

Tarell Alvin McCraney

Tarell Alvin McCraney

Playwright of Acclaimed 2012 Fountain Production Wins Windham Campbell Award

What’s it like getting a phone call telling you you’ve won $150,000? Ask playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of In The Red And Brown Water produced last year by the Fountain Theatre

Tarell joins two other two playwrights — Stephen Adly Guirgis and Naomi Wallace — and six fiction writers as inaugural recipients of the first-ever Donald Windham Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes, English-language awards that call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.

“It is an extraordinary blessing to be named an inaugural recipient of the Windham Campbell Prize at Yale”, says Tarell. “An added honor to do so alongside such incredible artists whom I admire greatly.”  

Prizewinners receive an unrestricted grant of $150,000. 

When the phone rang last March at his hotel room in New York, McCraney was $175,000 in debt. He was casting for his new play Choir Boy for the Manhattan Theatre Club. It took him a while to fully understand the nature of the news. When the information of the award registered, McCraney put down the phone and cried.

The Windham Campbell Prize cites:

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s working class characters inhabit an extraordinary mythic universe, speaking a poetic language through which we grasp the spiritual stature of embattled people.

"In the Red and Brown Water", Fountain Theatre (2012)

“In the Red and Brown Water”, Fountain Theatre (2012)

Playwrights never expect such financial rewards. They just hope their works are produced on stage somewhere. Their main goal is to make a living being a writer and most — even the names of playwrights we all know and admire — have to supplement their income by teaching or some other gig to pay the bills.

So, what’s Tarell going to do with the money? 

“Who knows what I’ll do with it,” says McCraney, 32. “Hopefully l’ll just look at it in my checking account for about a few months before I decide to do anything with it.”

 McCraney goes to Atlanta to see a production of Choir Boy at the Alliance Theatre, then off to London at the end of the month to start rehearsals for his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra which he is also directing. That production will also play Miami at the end of the year and begin performances at the Public Theater in New York in February.

The Fountain Theatre introduced Los Angeles audiences to McCraney’s work with the award-winning 2012 LA Premiere of In The Red And Brown Water. The Fountain is now in discussion about producing Choir Boy in our coming season.

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