Jeremy O. Harris talks race and sexuality in the theater


Broadway, still closed, found itself at the crossroads of several economic and political crises. This month, a talk on Scott rudin reignited the industry’s long codependent relationship with the volatile producer, prompting Tony’s nominee Karen Olivo to quit his main role in “Moulin Rouge”. And this week, spurred by growing frustration with industry unions, a “March on Broadway” is being planned by several black advocacy groups to protest the use of union dues.

“I do theater because the theater is the first political form”, declared Jeremy O. Harris Wednesday night. “In the commodification of industry, we forgot that. In the “Wicked” and “Rent” of it all, we forgot that the theater is supposed to affect catharsis to get people to do something different in their lives and their real communities. “

The Tony-nominated playwright won a record 12 Tony nominations for his 2019 exhumation of sexual trauma in the lives of black Americans in “Slave Play.” He joined the Tony nominated cast members Chalia La Tour and Ato Blankson-Wood in a talk hosted by the Human Rights Campaign for a Celebration of Slave Play and a Race and Sexuality-Centered Conversation in American Theater. Playwright CA Johnson also joined the conversation, which was moderated by the HRC President Jodie Patterson and moderated by the president of the HRC Alphonse david.

The Broadway turmoil served as a backdrop for the conversation, as did the country continuing to count with police violence against communities of color. Broadway, said Harris, falls short of fulfilling its responsibility to use theater to understand systemic oppression and trauma.

“There are so many collective nightmares that we as black people, we as queer people, the women in the room, had to deal with, and only five of us told the story,” said Harris. “Literally, there are only two other black men alive right now who have written plays that have been to Broadway in the past 40 years: Tarell McCraney and George C. Wolfe.”

This concern – that the good and necessary black plays go unnoticed and unproduced – led Harris, the producers of “Slave Play” and the Human Rights Campaign to launch the Golden Collection, an archive of 15 essential black plays. donate to public libraries and the community. centers in all 50 states and territories.

“I started having conversations about what to do with this amount of money that people usually put away for rewards campaigns, and it started to feel really disgusting to have such resources. piece about systematic racism going nowhere near the people who needed them most, ”explained Harris.

For communities across the country, access to black plays is essential, he summarized. “I wonder what will happen if we step into a culture that starts not shying away from the fact of our history?” “

Johnson, whose critically acclaimed 2020 off-Broadway play “All the Natalie Portmans”, provided a playwright’s response: “When you put these things on stage, things that are generational, that are societal , which are traumas that become circles, that become loops that are passed on – this is America. And I’m not here to make a fake America.


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