Why Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play Is Inextricably Linked to Rihanna

Video   Why Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play Is Inextricably Linked to Rihanna
 
The playwright talks about Rihanna’s influence on the Broadway play, texting in the theatre, the price of theatre tickets, and more.

Jeremy O. Harris appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers October 29 to talk about his Broadway debut work: Slave Play.

Harris’ play has been making waves since it bowed Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. Rihanna’s “Work” nearly serves as the single-song soundtrack to the play, which deals with race, sexual identity, and power dynamics in and outside the bedroom. For Harris, a longtime fan and now friend of the R&B pop star, the play came to him with Rihanna’s song attached.

Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in <i>Slave Play</i>
Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play Matthew Murphy

“When the play came to me. it hit me like a bolt of lightning. The first thing that was playing in my mind was ‘Work,‘” Harris told Meyers. “But ‘Work’ was a song that played in my mind for three years straight, so I decided it should play in the mind of the lead characters for three years straight.”

Rihanna came to the show and was criticized online for texting during the performance. Harris came to her defense, saying she was texting him, which led to many in turn criticizing the playwright. “There's so many bigger issues with theatre as far as who’s there, how they're there, what they're doing when they're there that. For me, Rihanna texting was the least of my worries when it came to theatre,” he said of the situation.

In terms of who’s seeing theatre, Harris has made concerted efforts with his producers to ensure that the audience of his play is more diverse than has been historically the case on Broadway. “Can we make sure that we're making sure that people like me can actually see a play on Broadway?” he recalled asking his producers. The Slave Play team has guaranteed to sell 10,000 tickets at the $39 price point. As is true for many other shows, the play also offers rush seats (also $39 at Slave Play) and has offered free tickets to many students.

“The theatre has to be full of theatre who look like me—not just my skin color, but my age, my sexual identity, all these things—and price is a big thing that prohibits them from coming,” says Harris. Watch the full interview above.

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