Independent Lens | Playwright From Page to Stage
Watch Monday, December 16, 2013 at midnight on WMHT TV.
A rare and intimate glimpse into the dynamic process of creating and launching new plays, Playwright: From Page to Stage follows two outstanding young playwrights through the writing, development, staging, rehearsal, and public performance of their plays. Over the course of three years, the dramatic parallel journeys of Rajiv Joseph and Tarell Alvin McCraney unfold, from the time their work receives development funding until the riveting climax, when one of the productions makes it to Broadway with Robin Williams in a leading role.
When the film begins, McCraney and Joseph are fresh talents bursting onto the scene, both having written probing new plays depicting society in turmoil. Young, black, gay, and from Miami’s inner city, McCraney has an unusual background for mainstream American theater. His Brother/Sister Plays, a sprawling coming-of-age trilogy set in a fictional black Louisiana community, reflect not only his own life experiences, but also the social and cultural realities of America’s underclass.
Joseph is a quiet but charismatic young Indian-American from Cleveland who traveled to Africa for a three-year stint in the Peace Corps after graduating from college. His Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a phantasmagorical exploration of war-torn Iraq, seen through multiple sets of dual perspectives — Americans and Iraqis, soldiers and civilians, animals and humans, men and women, the comic and the tragic, the living and the dead.
With extraordinary access at every step, Playwright: From Page to Stage brings to life the intense collaborations and emotionally charged process that takes place when teams of writers, directors, actors, and producers pool their talents. Intercutting between the two plays, the film goes backstage to reveal the drama and conflict leading up to their opening nights. Will these productions succeed and move to larger venues? Or will these promising productions close, leaving unrealized dreams behind?
From bare-boned rehearsal halls to regional theaters to Broadway, Playwright: From Page to Stage captures the arduous challenges — and ultimate triumph — of these controversial new works and the playwrights who created them.