Before Slave Play bowed on Broadway, marking playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ Main Stem debut, it was an Off-Broadway hit at New York Theatre Workshop. Before that, it was produced at Yale University, where Harris earned his masters.
That first production went up in 2017; the work now plays Broadway’s Golden Theatre in an open-ended run. “So many Americans are like, ‘I’m so tired of all these slave movies; they’re so depressing. Don’t we want more from a black narrative than the slave movie or the slave play?’” recalled Harris in a December 1 segment on The Today Show. “And I was like, ‘Yeah I do, but I think there's one more to be written, and I think I'm going to write it. But in case nobody knows what I've written, I'm just going to call it Slave Play.’”
And hence the title. As evident in a recent post-show talkback, the play has earned its reputation as a controversial new piece of theatre, which Harris embraces as an opportunity to start a dialogue: “It’s harder to consent to ideas if someone’s just punching you in the face. But if you laugh, all of a sudden you've opened yourself up and are consenting to more.”
As for what Slave Play is about, Harris wants to keep it a mystery. “I think surprise is so much better than plot. We're plot-overdosed as a culture,” he says. “Let’s release ourselves from plot and lean into the beauty of intrigue and surprise and the knowledge that you might walk into this play and absolutely love it—and you might walk out absolutely hating it but you will walk out talking about it.”