Openly gay, African American and just shy of his 31st birthday, Tarell Alvin McCraney is a unique voice in the world of theatre.

The acclaimed playwright’s work has been staged across America and in London, and this week gets its Australian debut, with the gripping three-character play The Brothers Size playing at the Griffin Theatre from today.

McCraney won’t be here for the season, but he told the Star Observer he was eager to see how an Australian company would re-create the world of steamy Louisiana bayou country.

“I’ll follow it as best I can. My mind still can’t quite get around the time difference. My imagination starts to get away from me and I imagine people living in the near future rather than just 12 hours ahead,” he joked.

The play, which was described by the Chicago Tribune as “the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more”, tells the story of the uneasy relationship between three brothers reunited after two have spent time in prison.

While none of the brothers is gay, McCraney said issues of sexual identity bubble beneath the play’s surface.

“Brothers Size deals with all portions of being a man and being a brother. It deals with sexuality purely because it is a part of one’s identity, and I think all my plays deal with identity.”

McCraney, who last year was named only the 43rd member in the 37-year history of Chicago’s prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company, has been recognised as a fresh talent within the gay community, being listed in both Out Magazine’s Hot 100 and The Advocate’s 40 Under 40.

“I am always so grateful and honoured by those lists,” he said.

“They mean to me that people recognise the hard work I am doing. That’s great. [But] what often happens then is I try to see what they saw in me or the work, and that never works.

“I cannot look at myself as others see me. I can only see myself with my imperfect view and work as best I can from there. And I‘m harder on myself than anyone else.”

McCraney was raised in the projects of Miami, with family members who battled drug addiction. His mother died from an AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

He’s described the world of theatre as a ‘lifeline’ out of the poverty that dominated his upbringing.

“I was trying to master and understand the socioeconomics and drug addiction that was destroying my own family, and I did not have a way to express the confusion or the small joys that were evident,” McCraney said.

“Theatre, as well as dance and music, allowed me the ability to put those larger questions in a form that, at least, ordered them into a more beautiful chaos.

“That’s all we ever really want in this life, right? To feel like we can for a moment order the chaos into something manageable, or at least perceptible.”

info: The Brothers Size plays at the SBW Stables Theatre, March 23 – April 16. Visit www.griffintheatre.com.au

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