This week, the MacArthur Foundation announced its 2013 class of MacArthur Fellows—sometimes referred to as the “Genius Awards”—providing no-strings-attached stipends of $625,000 each to 24 individuals with exceptional records of creativity and achievement. Among this year’s fellows is Tarell Alvin McCraney, a gay African American playwright whose work explores the complexities of gay and Black identities and experiences.
McCraney is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and his work is known for its unusual conventions, such as characters speaking their stage directions and expressing their feeling directly to audience members. His plays includes Wig Out!, set in the drag clubs of New York City, and Choir Boy, which features gospel music and follows the story of young men exploring their identities and sexuality in the context of an elite all-male boarding school.
In a recent interview with Out magazine, McCraney said, “I come from a very poor background, so there was no cachet to any of the things I was learning or codifying as a gay man at school. So when I got home, I figured out a specific way to go unnoticed. What I recognized is that my friends did the same thing, depending on the institution, that ‘double consciousness’ existed, that trying to make sure you spoke a certain way, walked a certain way, dressed a certain way when you were in a certain area.”
The other 23 MacArthur Fellows this year include behavioral economist Calvin Camerer, surrealist fiction writer Karen Russell, and immigration lawyer Margaret Stock.
With assets of $5.7 billion, the MacArthur Foundation ranks as the ninth largest foundation in the U.S. by asset size, according to the Foundation Center.