Jeremy O. Harris, the record-breaking writer of Slave Play, said on Tuesday that he intends to pull his show from the upcoming lineup at the Mark Taper Forum in LA due to the theater’s lack of scheduled productions from female playwrights.
“As a playwright who holds dear the principles of both inclusion it was a shock to realize that this season was programmed with only 1 woman across all theatres,” Harris wrote in an email to the theater company. “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.”
“I’ve spoken to my team and would like to begin the process of removing Slave Play from the season at this time,” he continued. “Hopefully in its place some young playwrights I love might be able to join the fold, like: Celine Song, Tori Sampson, Aleshea Harris, Claire Keichel Antoinette Nwandu, Ming Pfeiffer, Whitney White, Clare Barron, Majkin Holmquist, Genne Murphy, Aziza Barnes, and so many more.”
Now, the Center Theatre Group, the non-profit organization in charge of programming the Mark Taper Forum and other LA-area theaters, has responded via its own set of tweets. The company announced that in selecting shows for the season, it first honored commitments to shows that were originally disrupted by the pandemic, and that some of those are plays by women that will be scheduled for the next season.
“We understand the frustration, disappointment, and even anger in the scarcity of women playwrights in the upcoming season,” the company’s tweets read. “Although we have announced a lineup featuring voices from many standpoints and identities, we acknowledge that we’ve fallen short of our own expectations and those of our community in regards to gender equity, and for that, we apologize. We can and will do better.”
The tweets continued, emphasizing that the company remains “intensely focused on our mission of reflecting and serving the many communities of Los Angeles.” The company will commit to gender equity amongst playwrights for the 2022/23 season of shows as well. It also stated that other theatres it runs, like the Kirk Douglas Theatre, have a lot more plays by women on their schedules for the upcoming season.
Slave Play, which focuses on race and sex among interracial couples, was nominated for a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards this year. However, the play was snubbed at the actual award ceremony, taking home zero awards.