Oscar-winning 'Moonlight' writer graduated from DePaul University Theatre School

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tarell Alvin McCraney, who graduated from DePaul University's Theatre School, took the stage with "Moonlight" Director Barry Jenkins after winning an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

They had less than a month to shoot the film, which captured the hearts and minds of audiences around the world.

"We're putting our true feelings, our true selves there. This man did it in 25 days with a cast and crew who was in and out in Miami in the dreaded heat. But we did that with love and compassion and fullness," McCraney said.

There would be no "Moonlight" without McCraney. Adapted from a play he wrote, it mirrors that mirrored his life story, growing up in one of the poorest sections of Miami, Fla. Exceptional talent took him from an arts high school, up north to DePaul, where he graduated in 2003. He was a student who stood out.

"He is an incredible young man. A really, incredibly gifted writer and performer. We all kind of knew back then that he was very special," said Carlos Murillo, Head of Playwriting, DePaul University.

He was focused on acting, but it was in a class with Murillo that he started creating the story that would become "Moonlight."

"Carlos, in the class, said, 'Tarell, you're an amazing actor, but you're also an amazing writer. Is there something you want to work on? Tarell started working on the script that would eventually become, 'In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue,'" said Lisa Portes, Head of Directing and Artistic Director of Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences, DePaul University.

"He shines his light on black and brown communities and pulls them into the spotlight. He's always done, in every piece," Portes said.

McCraney is also a Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member, who earned the honor through his plays, produced by the company. "Head of Passes" was staged in Chicago and went to New York.

"A groundbreaking, once in a generation playwright. I think one of the things that most defines his work is his beautiful lyricism and the deep and powerful love with which he writes. He is an artist of great heart. I think that's going to continue to come through," said Aaron Carter, Artistic Producer, Steppenwolf Theatre.

"He was destined for greatness and I think last night was a testament of that," Murillo said.

"This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming, who don't see themselves. We're trying to show you you and us. So thank you, thank you. This is for you," McCraney said.

McCraney stepped down from his playwriting chair at Yale University's School of Drama to work on movies. But he will be at DePaul in April to speak with students who are staging one of his plays, which is called "Wig Out!"

Jenkins also used to work for HARPO.
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