Jeremy O. Harris's Slave Play is meant to be provocative—certainly moreso than most other Broadway productions that transfer from Off Broadway theatres. The play itself is about a group of interracial couples who go to a kind of psychosexual couples' therapy that involves BDSM, reflecting Antebellum master-slave dynamics. During previews, the show even hosted a "Black Out," or a dedicated performance for black audiences, so they can enjoy and discuss the play without worrying about the reactions of white people around them.
As such, it's not surprising that it might make some white people (and others) uncomfortable; that is, after all, the purpose of provocative art. But it reached a head after the Friday night performance on November 29 during a post-show talkback hosted by the playwright:
Just saw the amazing @SlavePlayBway by @jeremyoharris after which a white audience member jumped up and accused him of being "racist against white people." The confrontation proceeded from there. Clips in this thread. #slaveplay pic.twitter.com/KiXbo0rdcC
— Adam B. Kushner (@AdamBKushner) November 30, 2019
Imma tell my kids this was The Blind Side pic.twitter.com/lAbc9D8KuP
— Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) November 30, 2019
Apparently, the unnamed woman missed the whole part of the play about white people taking up space and centering things around themselves. She yelled at Harris for—in her words—"being told as a single woman I'm not good enough to fucking raise [my own children]," and asked, "How the fuck am I not a fucking marginalized member of this goddamn society?"
Harris answered calmly, "I never said you aren't. I never once said that you as a white woman were not a marginalized person. But if you heard that in my play, I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps read it or see it again," before ultimately telling her, "I think you've given us another really amazing play."
I haven't seen Slave Play myself yet, though I've heard great things. But if this tense moment is any indication, it certainly succeeds at its goals of provocation. I'm inclined to think that's a good thing.
A Broadway-goer railed against a play as unfair to white people. The playwright responded. [Hannah Knowles/The Washington Post]
Image via Wikimedia Commons.