Tarell McCraney, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

Tarell Alvin McCraney

Three awards from PEN and the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater honor a Grand Master of American Theater, a mid-career playwright with an outstanding voice, and an emerging playwright who demonstrates great promise. The PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career awards a cash prize of $7,500 to an American playwright in mid-career whose literary achievements are vividly apparent in the rich and striking language of his or her work.

From the Judges’ Citation

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s plays dance with astonishing ease between the personal and the cosmic.  Growing from his Liberty City childhood, but deeply imbued with Yoruba and Christian theology, his work is as real as asphalt and yet as soaring as the Psalms. The sociological reality of his characters does not limit their spiritual aspirations; his people are constrained by their material circumstances, but they have enormous souls.  In crafting his passionate and eloquent dramas, McCraney accomplishes one of the great goals of the theater:  making  his characters the subjects, not the objects, of history. Head Of Passes ends with the bereaved matriarch Sheila wrestling with God in a searing 20 minute monologue: few contemporary playwrights have the breadth of spirit to attempt, and succeed at, such a dramatic turn. McCraney has also demonstrated an ability to reach broad audiences without compromising the specificity of his vision. The judges recognize Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unique body of work for its ambition and its beauty.


Oskar Eustis has served as the Artistic Director of The Public Theater since 2005, after serving as the Artistic Director at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI from 1994 to 2005. Throughout his career, Eustis has been dedicated to the development of new work that speaks to the great issues of our time, and has worked with countless artists in pursuit of that aim, from Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks to David Henry Hwang and Lin-Manual Miranda. He is currently a Professor of Dramatic Writing and Arts and Public Policy at New York University; and has held professorships at UCLA, Middlebury College, and Brown University.

Michael C. Hall currently stars as Thomas Newton in David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s “Lazarus” at London’s King’s Cross Theatre. Broadway:  Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Realistic Joneses, Chicago, Cabaret. Off-Broadway:  Lazarus, Mr. Marmalade, Cymbeline, Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Henry V, The English Teachers, Corpus Christi, Romeo and Juliet, R Shoman, Skylight. Television:  “Dexter,“ “Six Feet Under.” Film:  Cold in July, Kill Your Darlings, Christine (current), Felt (forthcoming).

Young Jean Lee has written and directed ten shows in New York with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two OBIE Awards, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a PEN Literary Award. Her short film Here Come the Girls was presented at The Locarno International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and BAMcinemaFest.

Past Winners

Richard Greenberg, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, Charles Mee, Jr., Tony Kushner, Craig Lucas, Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Naomi Iizuka, Sarah Ruhl, Nilo Cruz, Theresa Rebeck, Marcus Gardley, Will Eno, Adam Rapp, Kirsten Greenidge, Donald Margulies, Anne Washburn, and Young Jean Lee

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.