• Mar 8, 2011

From the Playbill: Primary Sources

I like to deal with things in equal opposites. For example, the black male and the notion of coming of age: I’ve explored it in a couple of other plays, but in Choir Boy, I wanted to do it in the setting of institutions that the black community holds dear. We hold education very dear, and we also hold religion extraordinarily close to the heart of the community; not just because of its spiritual uplifting but also because of the political grounding that it has had. The black church serves as a spiritual anchor and a political anchor for the black community. And, in that tradition, we pass down a lineage of music, of an oral tradition, through young men who often must be duplicitous in nature.

We look at culturally effeminate boys, and we don’t talk about them as human beings. We think of them as great singers and extraordinary musicians and talents, but their lives, who they are as people, is left outside of our conversations or our cultural consciousness, even to this day—which struck me because it’s not like it happens in a vacuum. What we deem as effeminate or feminine traits start and continue early on. We try to mold and shape them into something else, and when it doesn’t happen, we get silent about it.

That’s extraordinary to me, because I thought, "How is it possible that we can celebrate someone, celebrate what makes him individual, but also keep trying to make him somehow fit into the middle?” It’s a universal thing. It doesn’t just happen in the black community—it happens in all communities. I took this micro-idea and wanted to explore it and create dialogue around it. I think it hits on universal themes of individual versus the whole, but also very intimate ideas that are woven into specific communities of color.

Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney on Choir Boy, June 2013

For Further Consideration

  1. How is the school in Choir Boy different from what you remember from your high school experience? How is it the same?
  2. What do you remember about your allies and adversaries from that time in your life? Are you still friends with people you went to high school with? Why or why not?
  3. How does the music in Choir Boy help tell the story? How did music shape and inform your adolescence?
  4. Who is more important in shaping a young person into an adult – their parents, their teachers or their friends?