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Out Playwright Jeremy O. Harris Makes Broadway History With Slave Play

Jeremy O. Harris

Playwright Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play has taken off-Broadway by storm. Now, at 30, Harris is about to make history as the youngest black man to have a play produced on Broadway.

Set on a plantation, Slave Play interrogates the intersections of race and sexuality that play out among three interracial couples. Harris began writing the work (which The New York Times has hailed as “transgressive") in 2016 during his first semester in the graduate playwrighting program at Yale School of Drama.

Not only will Harris, who is gay, become the youngest black man to have his play produced on Broadway when Slave Play arrives at the Golden Theater in the fall, he is only the sixth black writer to have a new play on Broadway since 2009, according to Broadway Black.

Commenting on Slave Play's upcoming Broadway run, Harris said:

“During my very short time being a professional writer, the world I thought I’d inhabit was one at odds with a commercial theatrical landscape; so to see that this play, Slave Play, that interrogates the traumas Americans have inherited from the legacy of chattel slavery and colonization has a place in the canon of work that has made its way to the Great White Way is both exhilarating and humbling. It also articulates that the leaps the community made in the past Broadway season might not have been a fad but the beginning of a new moment for the theatre to once again attempt to represent discursive American theatrical expression not situated solely within the imaginaries of cis white men, but the imaginaries of all Americans.”

Robert O’Hara, who directed Slave Play off-Broadway, is back to direct the Broadway production. It’s produced by Greg Nobile, Jana Shea, Troy Carter, Level Forward (Abigail Disney’s company), and Nine Stories (a new company from Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker), according to the Times.  

“I’m thrilled as a black queer artist to be collaborating with another black queer artist on what will be both of our Broadway debuts. I think the idea that I can say that openly and proudly is rather profound given the history of our country and of the American theater, but more specifically Broadway, which has had and continues to have a general lack of diversity and diverse stories,” O’Hara said about moving Slave Play to Broadway.

Harris also made waves off-Broadway this year with his queer-themed play Daddy, which starred Alan Cumming as a wealthy art dealer with a predilection for young black men.

Slave Play is slated for a 17-week run with previews beginning September 10 and an opening set for October 6. Ten thousand tickets will be made available for $39 to make the show more accessible, producers have said. 

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