By Jim Williams

(CBS) – The Oscar-winning screenwriter of the film “Moonlight” began working on the story as a young student at DePaul University.

When Tarell Alvin McCraney was studying acting at DePaul, a professor saw he had another talent, too: writing. So, he wrote a play. “Moonlight” is based on that work. It’s a story about a gay man growing up in Miami.

McCraney was in the first play DePaul professor Lisa Portes directed in Chicago.

“Tarell is constantly using his gift to bring forward stories that are rarely seen. And everything he does, he says, ‘I see you,’” Portes says.

After DePaul, McCraney joined the illustrious Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble.

“Tarell’s work is suffused with a deep understanding of the human spirit. He writes with an uncommon amount of love and respect for the people he writes about,” the Steppenwolf’s Aaron Carter says.

McCraney won an Oscar for his Moonlight screenplay the joy was shared by his Chicago teachers and colleagues.

“I’m just so very proud that he graced these halls and that he continues to grace the world with his gifts and his commitment,” Portes says.

McCraney now heads the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama, while maintaining his ties to Chicago.

His play “Wig Out” will be performed at DePaul in April.

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