Previous Alumni Profiles
in the “Alumni Who Give Back” Series
Photo by Joe Rodriguez
For Angus MacLachlan, an invaluable benefit of going to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts was being immersed in its culture of creativity.
“You think of yourself as an artist there, and you are around people who think of themselves as artists,” MacLachlan said.
He also appreciated the conservatory’s more formal benefits.
“I think the training is fantastic, and the discipline is enormous,” he said.
Growing up in Winston-Salem, MacLachlan wanted to be an actor. He went to see School of the Arts productions and attended School of Drama summer programs before going to high school there. Because there was no High School Drama Program at the time, he enrolled in the Visual Arts Program - which was fine with him because he also liked to create art. He graduated from high school in 1976 and went on to college at UNCSA, graduating from the School of Drama in 1980.
MacLachlan considered moving to New York or Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, and, indeed, he spent time in those cities. He decided, though, that he would rather keep Winston-Salem as his base. He began performing regularly with the Charlotte Repertory Theatre and other companies. He appeared in the movie REUBEN, REUBEN (1983).
Early on, he never imagined himself as a writer. He became one, though, in part because he wanted to create monologues that he could perform. He also started writing plays. Screenplays followed. Although he has continued to perform - he appeared in GOODBYE SOLO (2008) -he has become more well-known for his plays and screenplays. His plays have been performed in New York, Washington and London. He wrote the screenplay for STONE (2010), starring Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton. His screenplay for JUNEBUG (2005) was named Best Screenplay 2005 by the International Cinephile Society, and Roger Ebert was among the critics who included the movie on their annual Top 10 lists. An early script became the 18-minute short TATER TOMATER (1990), which aired on American Playhouse and was screened at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
For years, when people asked him to recommend a book on screenwriting, he suggested “Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV”by Dona Cooper. She is now on the faculty at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking.
Lately, MacLachlan has added essayist to his resume. He has written for the Lives column of The New York Times Magazine and is working on other essay writing projects as well as plays and screenplays.
In 2009, his fellow alumni voted to give him the first Alumni Recognition Award, and, in 2010, UNCSA awarded him an honorary doctorate and invited him to give the commencement address. MacLachlan thinks of the school and its alumni as a family. He understands what every School of the Arts student goes through, and, even if he doesn’t know someone personally, hearing about a graduate’s success makes him feel good.
“You get that familial pride,” he said.
“Alumni Who Give Back” Series by Kim Underwood