From 'Moonlight' to 'Ms. Blakk': Oscar-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney stars in new Steppenwolf show

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many of us first heard about him when he won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for "Moonlight," the movie that eventually won the top prize during the envelope snafu.

But Tarell Alvin McCraney, a DePaul graduate, has been acting and writing for the Chicago stage for years.

"Ms. Blakk for President" is now playing at Steppenwolf and getting rave reviews. It's the true story of Joan Jett Blakk, a drag queen who runs for president. The AIDS crisis was surging in 1992 when Joan forged a movement for inclusion that ends up at the Democratic Convention.

"He's the most open, honest, willing to share, put his soul and his blood and sweat and tears and humor on the line artist I've ever worked with," director Tina Landau said of McCraney, who wrote the play with her and stars.

"I think Chicago has really shown up in terms of how many voices can be heard at the same time and how they can sing in harmony," McCraney said.

McCraney hasn't done much acting in recent years.

"Acting's tiring and the older I get, the more shy I've become," McCraney said. "I used to have a verve to engage people intimately more often, now it takes a lot of energy for me to do it."

"If King Lear was a young drag queen in Chicago, it's of that heft," Landau said.

"Ms. Blakk for President" will run at Steppenwolf through July 14.
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