Playwright: From Page to Stage

Preview (:30)
Clip (1:14)
Clip (3:21)
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About the Film

Scene from a play by Tarell McCraney.

Photo by David Sperling

Rajiv Joseph and Tarell McCraney.

Rajiv Joseph photo by George Seminara
Tarell McCraney photo courtesy John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Robin Williams performs with two soldier characters  in the play Bengal Tiger.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playwright: From Page to Stage is a cinema vérité documentary that takes an intimate look at the development of two new plays, showing how creative teams are assembled and collaborate, detailing everything from the intense rehearsal process to achieving one of theater's ultimate goals: the arrival on a Broadway stage in New York City.

The film follows two young playwrights, Rajiv Joseph and Tarell McCraney, as they burst onto the scene, bringing real-world perspective to create theater that is fresh and new. Their success ignites tremendous interest in their work, and we follow as one of the plays, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, reaches Broadway, with Robin Williams in the lead role of The Tiger.

Along the way, we learn about both playwrights through their individual back stories. Before deciding to write plays, Rajiv Joseph, an Indian American from Cleveland, traveled to Africa after college for a three-year stint in the Peace Corps. Raised in Miami’s inner city, Tarell McCraney also has an unlikely background for a career in theater: as we start our journey, he’s under 30, grew up below the poverty line, and is black and gay.

Through extraordinary backstage access, Playwright shows how these works, depicting compelling diversity and gender themes, have the power to influence and impact both mainstream and underserved audiences of all ages.

The Filmmaker

Robert Levi, Producer/Director

Robert Levi Photo by George Seminara

Robert Levi is an independent writer, director, producer, and cinematographer. In 2008, Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life became the first show in broadcast history to receive an Emmy Award for Best Documentary, a Peabody Award, and the Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. In addition, Levi has received three Best Script nominations from the Writers Guild for other work. His film, Duke Ellington: Reminiscing in Tempo, premiered on PBS’s American Experience, received an Emmy, and later played on A&E’s Biography, BBC’s Omnibus, and La Sept/Arte. Levi wrote, produced, and directed Mott Street, a short film featuring Vincent Pastore, and his work has screened at festivals in Berlin, London, Melbourne, and Munich, as well as the American Film Institute Film Festival. As a Director of Photography, Robert Levi has worked with many directors and producers of note, including Norman Jewison, Sidney Pollack, Nick Broomfield, John Avildsen, and Peter Jennings. The first film he produced, the prison documentary Scared Straight, won a Best Feature Documentary Oscar.