By Johnny Oleksinski
“I’m a sock guy. I love socks,” says Tarell Alvin McCraney, glancing down at my feet. I’m wearing striped socks with an alternating spectrum of pinks divided by thin lines of navy blue. That proudly garish footwear is accompanied by a new blazer with patched elbows, a pressed pink shirt buttoned up to the neck, dark skinny jeans and black leather shoes. My outfit was strategic. It’s always ideal to relate to the person you’re interviewing, not unlike in a job interview, and McCraney is an impeccable dresser.
A perusal of his past photo shoots reveals a meticulous ensemble that’s Buddy Holly-cum-GQ model, scholarly but easygoing. Explaining my own prim-and-proper appearance, I tell him that I’m prematurely dressed for the opera—a partly true statement. Sure, I am going to Lyric later, but I’d attend the opera in a hoodie without much hesitation. Right now, I am dressed to impress. “I actually have those socks,” he points out. Skeptically I reply, “I bought them at an H&M, but I’m sure a lot of people make them.” “No. I have those socks. I love socks. If you came on a day when I actually had on clothes, you’d see I have all kinds of socks like polka-dot socks, crazy color socks.”
Today, McCraney, one of the most prominent playwrights of his generation, adorns more casual attire, and he laments the inevitability of another photo shoot for this story. “We need to sell tickets, right?” I nod. “Because usually I’m not thinking about that, so I just showed up in some sweats, some sneakers and white socks for God’s sake.” He assures me, “I never wear white socks.” I tell him, honestly, that I think he looks good. “Oh God, I look like hell. But I always look like hell ‘cause see I’m in tech, so I kinda like—I always look like hell. I’m always just sleeping and reading and then, you know, working on stuff. I don’t go outside.” He laughs a truly disarming laugh. His excuse is as good as any. It is tech week for “Head of Passes,” a world-premiere play by McCraney at Steppenwolf Theatre, where he is an ensemble member. And during tech, as the playwright physically recedes into the darkness and his words become illuminated on the stage, his clothing can become comfy. Read the rest of this entry »