Jeremy O Harris pulls own show Slave Play from LA theatre over representation

Playwright said he was ‘shocked’ by lack of female playwrights in theatre company’s programme

Ellie Harrison
Wednesday 06 October 2021 10:33
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<p>Jeremy O Harris </p>

Jeremy O Harris

Jeremy O Harris has pulled his own show, Slave Play, from a theatre in Los Angeles in protest over the company’s lack of representation of female playwrights.

The groundbreaking play is returning to Broadway from November to January. It was then scheduled to run at the Mark Taper Forum in February, but on Monday (4 October), Harris announced he would be removing it.

“It was a shock to realise that this season was programmed with only one woman across all theatres,” Harris wrote in an email to the Center Theatre Group, which oversees the playhouse. “As an Angeleno and a lover of theatre I think Los Angeles audiences deserve an equitable showing of the playwrights working in the US right now.”

In the letter, which he shared on Twitter, he added: “I’ve spoken to my team and would like to begin the process of removing Slave Play from the season at this time.

“Hopefully in its place some young playwrights I love might be able to join the fold like: Celine Song, Tori Sampson, Aleshea Harris, Claire Kiechel, Antoinette Nwandu, Ming Peiffer, Whitney White, Clare Barron, Majkin Holmquist, Genne Murphy, Aziza Barnes and so many more.”

The Center Theatre Group, which oversees the Mark Taper Forum, responded on Twitter, saying that it understood the “frustration, disappointment, and even anger in the scarcity of women’s voices in the upcoming seasons”.

Its statement added: “Although we have assembled a line-up featuring voices from many standpoints and identities, we acknowledge that we’ve fallen short of your expectations… (and our own) in regards to gender equity, and for that, we apologise. We can and will do better.”

Slave Play is a provocative show about race, sex, power relations, trauma, and interracial relationships. It follows three interracial couples undergoing Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy because the black partners no longer feel sexual attraction to their white partners.

While Slave Play did not receive a single prize at this year’s Tonys, it was up for 12 of them, making it the most nominated play in the history of the awards.

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