Jeremy O. Harris is a writer. He’s a playwright yes, but he’s also an overall writer. As Slave Play, his first work to debut on both Off-Broadway and Broadway, took off, he took on assignments for T Magazine and GQ, wrote monologues for fashion brands like Telfar, and got into screenwriting.
“When you’re writing things and no one’s watching, you have a litany of ideas and you feel free,” Harris told Out as Slave Play geared up for its run on Broadway. “The minute someone tells you they like one thing you’re doing and only that thing, and that’s your voice, is a minute you can start to feel really claustrophobic.” And so, with his work, Harris pushed against that, resulting in an output that is both astounding and dizzying.
Here are five of the multi hyphenate's current projects.
Slave Play — Arguably the project that thrust Harris into the limelight, Slave Play was created while the Virginia-native was still in theater school at Yale. In fact, it debuted on Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, while he was still there as well. The play, which deals with race relations in America and their effects on interracial relationships, became a media darling as well as a favorite of celebrities. Madonna, Whoopi Goldberg, Scarlett Johansson, and more all attended showings and Jake Gyllenhaal became so interested that he helped to bring the play to Broadway, making Harris the youngest Black male playwright to make his debut there. After being announced for a limited 17-week run, in late October the production said it would extend the engagement by two weeks due to demand. Slave Play will now close Sunday, January 19, 2020.
Daddy — This was the play that got Harris in to the Yale School of Drama. And though it was made before Slave Play, it didn’t debut until after as a part of his winning The Vineyard’s 2018 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award — yes, he was still at Yale when it debuted. Revolving around a young black artist and his relationship with his mother as well as an older white art collector, Daddy boasted quite the cast in its initial run: Hari Nef, Alan Cumming, and Tommy Dorfman were all involved. And now it’s going international: in March, Daddy will have its U.K. premiere at the Almeida Theatre.
Black Exhibition — Harris is a theatre artist as evidenced in this work where he not only writes, but stars. Initially debuted under the pseudonym @GaryXXXFisher, Black Exhibition reportedly includes a “no-holds-barred depiction of gay sex.” Among the components, Harris appears for the majority of it in a jockstrap, Miles Greenberg turns into a Japanese BDSM master with a whip, and characters discuss the nirvana of a “perfect poppers hit” all set in Fire Island. While it initially was slated for a two and a half week run, Black Exhibition has announced an extension and will now close on December 15 at The Bushwick Starr theater.
Zola — It’s not just stageplays for Harris. The fashion plate has also contributed to his first screenplay, working with director Janicza Bravo and others on Zola. The film is based on a viral tweet thread about a woman who met a tripper named Jessica, who led her down a winding path that almost got the two abducted and drafted into a prostitution ring. Produced by A24, the project doesn’t yet have a release date.
Black Work Broadway — Outside of writing, Harris is composing a database of his theatrical predecessors. The in-progress project bills itself as an “evolving and comprehensive record of all the plays, musicals, musical revues, and other performances presented in Broadway houses, that were either written or created by Black artists.” Each entry include the opening and closing dates, a synopsis, as well as a record of lead creatives involved in the production. The site, which is currently live, is a collaboration between Harris and others.