These Truths: Realizing a New Theatre with Lynn Nottage and Jeremy O. Harris
These Truths is a new, limited-run podcast from the PEN World Voices Festival, exploring literature and the deeper truths that connect us. In a moment that risks tearing our world apart, and when the factual basis of our daily lives is constantly undermined, this podcast explores how literature can help us arrive at the truth and a deeper understanding of what connects us.
Each week, authors wrestle with urgent questions about contested histories, foundational myths, and dangerous manipulations of language rampant in our daily lives. This podcast brings writers and artists of America’s premier international literary festival into homes everywhere while introducing listeners to new books, ideas, and authors on the vanguard of contemporary literature.
In our final conversation, the acclaimed, genre-breaking Black playwrights Lynn Nottage (also a PEN America Trustee) and Jeremy O. Harris join forces for a conversation about some of the most compelling questions facing modern theatre. Where, how, and why do they make theater? Why is inclusion important within the art form—for playwrights and audience members alike? And how can we imagine a new theatre amidst a pandemic and cultural uprising?
LYNN NOTTAGE: Hello, I am Lynn Nottage. I’m a playwright. And I use the pronouns “she, her, hers.”
JEREMY O. HARRIS: My name is Jeremy O. Harris. I am a theatre maker and artist in the world. It’s so weird to define oneself now. I guess I’m a millennial. I should just say, who knows what I’ll be next week? And my pronouns are very fluid.
NOTTAGE: I’ve found it to be really difficult to still my mind enough to write in a traditional way, given everything that’s happening in the world, particularly what’s happening around George Floyd’s murder, and just feeling socially isolated and anxious and uncertain with this COVID pandemic.
I’m a little lost at this moment, and I’m tangled up in how to respond creatively. I’m trying to figure out how I can respond through my work in a very different way. And I’ve decided that my response now is through activism and to figure out ways to protect my industry, so that when we return to the creative process, it’s a place that feels more welcoming and equitable and diverse—because I don’t want to go back to the way things were. Particularly because we have begun dreaming about what the future can look like in a more expansive and beautiful way. You know, one of the questions that someone charges [is] if you go back to the theatre, what will bring you joy? I think about that a lot. I want to go back to a theatre where I can reignite my joy and feel super excited to be in that space.
And we know that theaters are not going to be reopening probably until next spring, which really means that there’s ample time for us to do real, substantial work to diversify staff and to think about equity and diversity training, and to address anti-Blackness that has gone unchecked in these spaces for so, so long.
One of the other creative things that I’ve been doing is thinking about how we can ensure the health and safety of our industry, because it’s not just about equity and diversity, but also, our publishing companies and our licensing companies are under threat. And I want to make sure that we have someplace there—some infrastructure there—that is going to support us when we return. Because a lot of these publishing companies and licensing houses may not survive this crisis. And we are absolutely dependent on them.
“I so often think about how my body has been colonized thoroughly from my imagination. And the way in which I decolonize is to tell my story with a sense of authenticity, and purpose, and drive, and passion. Because I don’t see myself represented in that.”
HARRIS: Yeah. Snaps to everything you’re saying. I keep going back and forth between this and being like, why did I choose to be a playwright? For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer as a child—someone who’s thinking about some of the themes that I’m thinking about in my work, which are social justice, equity, how we can fix the class divide and start to bring democratic socialism into our lives and in all of our institutions.
And the other profession that was a possibility for me, being a working-class gay boy, was a pastor, right? So often, we put those types of boys on that path. And I guess I decided to funnel all of that energy into a spiritual practice in making theatre. Situating myself in the space of spirituality.
And a lot of activists had done that. Right? Like, not to say I’m Martin Luther King, but the spirits that I lead and my “flock,” so to say, is in the theatre. How can I activate it more so than just doing a sermon?
I’m going to start trying to be more active about what I personally can do to disrupt inequities in our space. So, the last couple months, I’ve felt less interested in writing and more about how I could create—organize—on the ground myself, you know? I’ve started investing in other playwrights by trying to use that grant with the Bushwick Starr called the pet project grant.
HARRIS: Thank you. And I have been working with a couple other theaters really trying to reimagine this moment as a moment of possibility and not limits or liability for the theatre. You know, one of my favorite professors is a woman named Magda Romanska, and she’s disabled and uses a wheelchair. Just the fact of going to the theatre and being in a room with a bunch of people who could be sick all the time is like a health risk for her. And she wrote this essay recently that I love, but it also got me thinking so much more about how there’s so much potential in the theatre actually having to reckon with the fact that the travel to a building, sitting in a small space, and only being able to interact with theatre in that way has its limits outside of the class limits and the cultural limits.
It literally has embodied limits for many people in our society. I’m someone who’s six–five and can barely sit consistently in a theater, right? And so, I wonder what sitting in a theater will be like when my knees start to truly erode, and my body gets larger in ways that I’m not imagining for myself at this moment.
If we can figure out a way to have programming that lives digitally as well as in the real world or “IRL,” as they would say, it would make a truly more equitable theatre, right? And so I think that those re-imaginings are where I’ve been putting my energy recently. And it’s been really good, because it’s made me recognize that so much of the work of being a playwright or a theatre maker or a millennial is not just creating content that can be consumed, but it’s also about reimagining the methods of consumption.
NOTTAGE: That’s amazing. And one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed in the midst of this pandemic is the digital space that you’ve been occupying and enlivening with storytelling. I just appreciate how you’re trying to navigate that space in a super creative way. And you’ve said a lot in there, a few things that I wanted to respond to, and one of them is playwriting—not necessarily feeling like a form of activism, but I do think it is a form of activism.
And one of the things I always hold onto is that theatre is at the vanguard of change. You know, we were the first to shut down the last year. We are the last to reopen, but one of the things that we do so well as Black playwrights is, we center Black stories. We can defund the police, and we can stop police brutality, but violence against Black people is also committed in many other ways.
And you think about how the culture narrative is being shaped, at this moment, by storytellers in the theatre, on television, on the screen, on the stage. And you think about who gets to shape those stories, particularly of the way in which Black people are portrayed. Who are the heroes, and who are the villains, and how do you see the police triumphing and how that gets internalized?
I so often think about how my body has been colonized thoroughly from my imagination. And the way in which I decolonize is to tell my story with a sense of authenticity, and purpose, and drive, and passion. Because I don’t see myself represented in that. I’m talking now about a middle-aged Black woman who grew up in an urban setting. I’m a fourth-generation New Yorker, and I so rarely see my story told. And my activism in this moment needs to assert my truth and to play that role.
That’s super, super important. And when I was listening to you speak about the nature of spaces—are you familiar with the work of Ron Athey?
He was an HIV-positive performance artist in the 1980s, who did these ritualized bloodlettings in order for people to confront the nature and fear of the virus. And it was very powerful and really scary. But he was bringing the fear out into the open, and I heard, embedded in what you were saying, how do we confront our fear in these small spaces? How do we deal with our discomfort? How do we shift that discomfort to make spaces where all of us suddenly see ourselves represented? All of our bodies can feel comfortable.
HARRIS: Absolutely. During the off-Broadway run of Slave Play, the sort of digital landscape of Black culture makers I was really into and following had a sort of persona non grata.
With Slave Play and me—and a lot of it had to do with not having the chance to truly articulate why I wanted to tell my story, and the way I wanted to tell my story—I’m responding a lot to this idea of what violences have lived in our imaginations through storytelling, and how we try to rewrite those stories. How our activism is rewriting those stories and centering ourselves in new and different ways, right?
I watched Disclosure the other day.
NOTTAGE: It’s very powerful. I did watch.
HARRIS: Yeah. And seeing this is one type of portrayal of transness, right? This one understanding of what it means to be a transwoman or a transman since 1914, right? And understanding that much of that stuff lives inside of our biases is something that I was trying to do with the slave narrative, right?
We have been so inundated—sort of neutralized—to the violence of the slave narrative that we can witness these things, and I can literally make you laugh, and separate you from the fact of the trauma—this trauma that is overwhelmingly the shadow cast over everything that I do, especially because I am a Black southerner, right?
And I can never escape remembering going to my high school prom, and the after-party happening at one of my friend’s—a plantation. Like, literally the Hamlet plantation was where my after-prom and my graduation party took place. And we all stayed in little guest houses that were the old slave quarters, which is a wild thing to have to experience when you’re the only Black person there.
NOTTAGE: I do think you’re right—that all of us, BIPOC folks, white folks, we have to interrogate our own implicit bias in our complicity in perpetuating all of these harmful narratives. It goes back to just decolonizing our imaginations. I remember sitting through Slave Play—I saw it both off-Broadway and on Broadway—and having to navigate my own discomfort, as I was laughing, and then the next moment, dealing with trauma, and having to deal with emotions that were unfamiliar and challenging. And I think that the best of theatre does that. It disrupts our sensibilities and forces us to really think about, well, what are my beliefs? And how am I complicit? And, is this me, or how is it like me, or how is it different from me?
We took a trip down South, and we followed the trail of enslaved people. And so, we began in Georgia, in Macon, and then we worked our way up the East Coast. And one of the first places that we went was a museum of the Daughters of the Confederacy. And I think that perhaps we were the first Black people to ever step foot in this space. And we did so because we didn’t know what it was.
NOTTAGE: And it was shocking how some of these items and images could be celebrated in this space, because no one had ever stepped into that space to challenge them.
And when we went in immediately, the curator said, “Oh my god, oh my god.” Just like that. She’s like, “We’re changing all of this.” And she was super apologetic. And I thought our mere presence may change how that museum conducts itself in the future, but I also thought, there are all these spaces around the country that need to be disrupted.
HARRIS: I think we’re in this moment right now where we want to sanitize those imaginaries. In a lot of ways, that sanitation of those imaginaries is less fueled by Blackness and more fueled by white supremacy, right? One of the best tools of white supremacy is amnesia. Like Tina Fey, in pulling those 30 Rock episodes with blackface, has enacted more white supremacy than putting blackface in her TV show.
NOTTAGE: Can you discuss that? I’m curious.
HARRIS: If we were truly doing some sort of restorative justice. She and all of us would have to sit with those being a part of her legacy. Those things can be a part of your legacy and also sort of a testament to a person’s later growth, right? But the fact that less than a year ago, she was saying, “I will never apologize for jokes,” and now she’s like, “Actually I’ve read White Fragility, and I shouldn’t do this,” is like—it’s so fucked.
I have this big play that I was going to write for my thesis play that was all about Tyler Perry and my family and my relationship to Blackness and being poor, and wanting to be a theatre maker, and never seeing that.
August Wilson portrayed poor Black families, but they were poor Black families in the forties. By the time he got to the nineties, he was more interested in Black ascension. That is not what my family back home looks like. And the only person that I could look at for an understanding of that is Tyler Perry.
Also, my family feels seen by Tyler Perry. And yet, when I look at his understandings of Blackness, a lot of them can be seen under a lens of full offense. But if you’re a student of someone like The Wooster Group, you’re like, “Is he an experimental playwright?”
You know what I mean? Like, are we giving him less credit for being an actual disruptor and experimenting with Black identitarian politics? Because one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, and one of the most offensive things I’ve ever seen, was Liz LeCompte’s The Emperor Jones with Kate Valk.
NOTTAGE: It was very disturbing.
“And as we start to have more consciousness about anti-Blackness in all of the spaces of creation that we have, I think that it’s going to be hyper important for white people to stand by their legacy and not erase it, because they’re never going to be erased from our memories, right? One of the tools of white supremacy is to erase those things from being in our memory.”
—Jeremy O. Harris
HARRIS: I was 18 at the Goodman Theatre, watching this with my eyes like saucers, because it felt so exhilarating and transgressive. And I think Kate Valk is one of the coolest performers ever.
And I was such a fervent fan of white experimental theatre—that I always have given them all the benefit of the doubt in their provocation, right? I had always assumed that if a company like The Wooster Group was doing something that had offense built into the thing that they were doing, they were trying to engage with this problem. In my mind, I gave them all these reasons, and I was like, you know, America’s only contribution to world theatre is minstrelsy.
There’s a history of white female fear of Black masculinity in America. These are all the reasons that they were obviously doing this thing with The Emperor Jones, right? And sitting next to me at the end of the show for the talkback was this young Black girl who was so upset. And she was from Northwestern, and I’ll never forget it. She was weeping and raised her hand and she was like, “I just want to know why you would do this. Because here’s what I know about blackface.” And then she was like, “And this is what it made me feel.”
And I felt her pain, even though I hadn’t had the same experience of witnessing the show. And so, the entire audience looked at Elizabeth LeCompte. Basically, everyone willing her to be a genius and say something that would comfort this young woman. And she just chewed her gum and sat back in her chair. And she was like, “Why did I do it? Because I wanted to.”
NOTTAGE: Yeah. It’s so dangerous.
HARRIS: It’s so dangerous. But in relationship to 30 Rock—and this isn’t to like, valorize that sort of blitheness—but in my memory of that, and my understanding of that, there’s no way that Elizabeth LeCompte can ever just step away from that being a part of her legacy. She actively stood in it being a part of her legacy in a way that Tina Fey had as well, a year ago. And as we start to have more consciousness about anti-Blackness in all of the spaces of creation that we have, I think that it’s going to be hyper important for white people to stand by their legacy and not erase it, because they’re never going to be erased from our memories, right? One of the tools of white supremacy is to erase those things from being in our memory.
NOTTAGE: It’s the phrase, and you’ve heard me say this before, which I love, is “the transgressive unwillingness to know,” which is a kind of haughtiness which permits folks like Elizabeth LeCompte to create these cultural crimes because they have no awareness of what the full implications are. They have this desire, really, to deconstruct something that they don’t understand, and in their rush to be transgressive and provocative and experimental, they do not fully unpack how dangerous and harmful those images of blackface were—and their implicit anti-Blackness in doing it.
And so, I totally agree with you, but we have this enormous ship that we have to turn around, because the entire ecosystem is polluted and is toxic and is not fully embracing how anti-Black it has been from, you know, the universities, to the training, to downtown theatre, to Broadway.
You think about university and training programs and how, number one, we have to decolonize the canon. But we also have to expand the way we teach theatre.
NOTTAGE: And I’m just really curious, because you’re very fresh out of the academy, and I know you had a fraught experience. And I went to Yale many years before you, and I had perhaps an even more fraught experience because of racism. Even though we had a Black dean of the drama school, the racism was so embedded that every day going to class, I had to resurrect my spirit and run the gauntlet.
HARRIS: And you were the first Black woman to go to Yale, right?
NOTTAGE: No, I was the second Black female playwright. And while I was there, the first was in the active process of suing the school. So, she was in litigation while she was going to class, because they wanted to push her out, and she’s like, “I’m not leaving.”
HARRIS: Wow. Wow. There’s so much that we have to unpack and unlearn. And so many of the structures that we continue to teach and are taught are completely ignorant of anybody but white male bodies.
I was talking about this with Magda Romanska—I should amend that and say, “white male able-bodied,” right. You know, she and I were talking about the incompatibility of both Blackness and disability with the Aristotelian form of tragedy.
She was like, “If society has already imposed a tragic flaw upon you, [and] that is not a flaw of your own making but a flaw of society, then how do you watch someone overcome that, or succumb to it?” You can’t. It’s not the same as watching Willy Loman or, you know, Walter White. She’s like, “So, actually, the Greeks are incompatible to the disabled body, to the Black body. And maybe something that we should look towards is the structure of Chinese tragedy.” The structure of Chinese tragedy is essentially that the tragic flaw is societal, and generally, people don’t overcome the tragedy of that flaw until the afterlife, usually the last act of these tragedies—which is so fucking cool.
That theoretical understanding of tragedy would probably help a lot of young Black and brown students [and] a lot of disabled students navigate how to write plays differently than the ways in which they’re being taught now, you know?
NOTTAGE: Absolutely. The academy is what shapes modern American theatre. And so, the change really has to begin there in the way in which students are taught and what they have access to.
I teach a course called “American Spectacle,” which is looking at theatre beyond the proscenium. And one of the specific reasons that I began teaching this course is, I wanted to liberate my students from a Eurocentric notion of structure, and to expand where theatre can happen, and what theatre can look like. And so, we take these adventures to discover places where theatre is organically happening in ways that are accessible throughout the city.
We always begin at the Coney Island sideshow, where we have a lecture from Dick Zigun, who started the sideshow and the mermaid parade in part because he wanted to celebrate bodies that he did not see on the American stages.
He found a space where he could tell the stories in a very different structure—10 short acts that can repeat throughout the day so that people can come and go. And you can pay $10, which makes it much more accessible.
I also take my students to see vogue balls, which is really about teaching them about self expression and how you can create a vocabulary that is very simple in celebrating self. And the structure is very different, but it’s formal. And so, it’s trying to get my students to think outside of the proscenium—outside of the box.
And I feel very strongly that the academies are constricting the growth of theatre, because organically, people want to use different mediums and tools to tell the stories, because the proscenium can no longer support the weight and the complexity of the stories.
HARRIS: Do you know that one of my favorite quotes—I was going to get it on a t-shirt. When I was arguing for the right to do my thesis play the way I wanted to do it, a big part of my thesis play was going to have a huge video component.
The Dean James Bundy literally said to me, “Jeremy, I’m sorry, but you’re going to the Yale School of Drama, not the Yale School of Multimedia. And we do plays here. You write plays.” And that was seared in my memory, and I wanted to get a t-shirt of it because it’s so funny.
NOTTAGE: I think theaters are resistant because they feel that going multimedia will somehow affect the integrity of the medium.
HARRIS: I spent most of my time while I was at Yale, hanging out with architects and the art students. And one of the things I became very obsessed with there was making objects that people could hold onto when they leave the theater. The first plays I did at Yale, I made websites. And you can go visit the website both while you’re watching the play and when you leave, and when I went to Fire Island this summer, the play that we did there—I hired a photographer, and the play that’s being published. It’s like a photo book and the play.
That’s not a wild transgression, but it’s something that allows theatre to live in a new way in your home. I think the fact that theatre and theatre publishers are generally very like, “Oh, but I just want to do it the way we’ve always done it,” is so limiting and so frustrating, and one of the reasons why I think that every part of our model needs to be reshaped. Something that was a refrain at Yale was, “We’re teaching you how it’s going to be in the real world.” But why are you teaching us how the world already is when we all know that the world sucks? Like, why can’t we be here in a laboratory reimagining better practices for the world?
NOTTAGE: And thinking about the artifacts that you created. . . when I was doing Vera Stark, I did get a lot of pushback because I wanted to create two sites that were created by characters that were within the play, and the theatre said no.
HARRIS: Shut up!
NOTTAGE: And so, I actually raised the money and created these two websites, one of which still exists, which is very, very fun. And it has a documentary that includes Peter Bogdanovich talking about my character, Vera Stark.
HARRIS: Oh my God.
NOTTAGE: And I never mentioned it because it’s designed to be an artifact that you discover.
NOTTAGE: And so, I had populated the internet with people who were looking for Vera Stark. They’d come across these artifacts that were extensions of the storytelling.
One of the websites was created by Carmen Levy Jones, who was an academic, and she made a documentary that included interviews with Vera Stark’s agent, with a young woman who was in a film with Vera Stark, and a drag performer who performs Vera Stark in Vegas.
And I thought, why can’t we continue to experiment? Why won’t theaters permit us to be inventive in the ways that feed our full creative spirits? Playwrights today want to have a more expansive relationship with audiences.
HARRIS: Well, I mean, it made me feel so seen when you came to see Black Exhibition, and you said it reminded you of the stuff that you were going to see in the eighties and nineties. ’Cause your generation of makers—and how you all were so un-siloed, especially during the AIDS epidemic—has always been my guiding star. No one’s ever given a name to that moment in the theatre, but I think it was sort of new queer theatre.
What was that transition for you from being someone who was going to downtown weird performances with Glenn Ligon and all of these Black and brown kids, to doing your first plays in prosceniums theaters and going to Yale? How did you contend with those different modalities, you know?
NOTTAGE: Well, the way you speak is like we had an option.
NOTTAGE: The invention came out of necessity. We occupied these spaces downtown or in Brooklyn—that was part of BACA Downtown New Works Project—because we were not invited even to the off-Broadway spaces in the Lower East Side.
And so, we had to create work that was inventive and flexible in spaces that weren’t necessarily designed for theatre. And I think, as a result, the work ended up being slightly more imaginative. And in some ways, when we got invited into the proscenium spaces, we began to shape our work to fit those spaces. And I can only speak for myself—I think it drained me of some of my creative impulses.
HARRIS: Do you have frustration about that?
NOTTAGE: I do. And I understood when I moved uptown the compromise which I was making. And I realized that I wouldn’t have the same sort of creative agency and flexibility that I had in the downtown spaces.
But what I gained were audiences and the means to make a living, which at the time was really important because, you know, we can make our art in these tiny spaces that no one sees, and then we can starve to death. But I also recognized that once I build my audience, then I can take my audience with me to wherever I want to go.
HARRIS: Yes, yes.
NOTTAGE: And so, I feel like now I’m at that point where I thought I no longer have a dependency on those prosceniums, because I have nurtured my audience, and I can move into other spaces.
HARRIS: Yes. I love that. What was that like—moving one of your plays to Broadway? Had you already decided that maybe Broadway wasn’t a thing that you were going to do? Or was it something you had your sights set on for awhile?
NOTTAGE: You know, it’s interesting, because Broadway was really never my end game. I didn’t go into this business to have my plays on Broadway because it felt like it was a very specific kind of audience. But when it came to Sweat—particularly because I do consider it to be a political play, and it came at a moment when I felt like the message was really urgent and necessary for as large an audience to hear—I suddenly had a much greater ambition for that piece.
And I wanted as many people to see it—particularly the kind of people who go to Broadway, who, by and large, are tourists who come from all over the country. And I thought, this is a play that I don’t want to just speak to the New York intellectual crowd. I want to speak to working-class folk. I want to speak to everyone.
And it felt like Broadway was the medium and the conduit through which I could do that. And so, my ambitions for that play were quite different.
HARRIS: I feel similarly [about] most of my plays after I wrote Daddy, which is this play I literally wrote to be “my expensive play to happen in like a huge theatre somewhere.” Because I had been writing all these little plays, and I could see people wanting it to feel more real, you know? And so, I was like, “I’ll give you real, and I’ll give you a pool.” I was going to blow my wad on excessiveness.
But after that, I was like, “I only want to write plays that can be done in a basement.” You know? So, one of the major stage directions of Slave Play is that it’ll be cool if this play has the verisimilitude of a plantation, but also, you can do this with chalk on the ground—which is how we did it at Yale.
And I can do them in a laundromat if I need to. And so when I saw that Sweat was moving all around the country, “I was like, Oh my God. Lynn is doing my dream.”
NOTTAGE: It was awesome. And it just showed you how few tools you need to actually tell stories. Go on.
HARRIS: I was going to say, I’m someone who’s from a theatrical desert. The only plays that came to me were weird trunk plays. There would be these kids who traveled the country doing Shakespeare with, like, four costumes. And so, I would see those people, or we would see the Chitlin’ Circuit plays. And they always go to Greensboro, North Carolina, and they literally were in theaters bigger than any theater on Broadway.
HARRIS: And full of Black people.
NOTTAGE: Yeah, it was either/or. It was the two extremes, talking about the Sweat mobile tour, which traveled through five states in the Rust Belt. We went to 17 small cities and towns. We played in everything from stadiums to church to a brewery. And we had audiences that were multicultural, and so many of the folks had never seen theatre before.
In the days that I went to see the play, I never saw a cell phone go off. I never saw anyone leave. Everyone stayed afterwards to engage with the piece and to share their feelings. And I thought, “This is what theatre should be.” People came completely without any preconceived notions, were not judgmental, and just lived inside of the words of the play in a way that I found so beautiful and nourishing and exciting.
And we didn’t have any lights. We had very primitive sound. And yet, there’s a critic, Peter Marks, who saw the play at Arena and didn’t like it, and he came to see it on tour and he’s like, “This may be the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
NOTTAGE: He’s like, “How can this play be the same play? And yet, I’m experiencing it in a completely different way.”
And in part, it was because of the audience, which sort of segues to what you did—which I thought was kind of miraculous on Broadway with Slave Play, with the “Black Out” nights.
HARRIS: First of all, thank you. And also, thank you for what you did, because when I first saw Sweat, it was complicated for me, because I am from a factory town that fell apart in the early nineties. I saw my grandpa go from being able to buy me a hot dog when we went out to the store, to him being like, “Oh no, not today, big boy,” and having to actually struggle. So anyway, I saw that play with a bunch of wealthy white people, who I felt like they were ingesting my culture in the wrong way. ‘Cause I saw it at Studio 54, you know?
Then when I saw it sitting next to my mom at Yale—and I’ve taken my mom to see so many plays over the years, and the only plays she ever says she likes, or even has a deep, emotional response to, are mine—and I watched her feel seen and recognized. And our community feels seen and recognized. It completely changed my relationship to the play. You know what I mean?
NOTTAGE: Which is important. And I heard in some pockets when we originally did the play, “Well, this is not realistic.” I’m like, then you have no idea. And when we did it throughout the Rust Belt, when we did it in Reading, where it’s set, people were like, “This is 100 percent a representation of what we’re going through.”
HARRIS: My mom literally said, “This is real life. This is real life.”
NOTTAGE: It was real life. And I think that it was disturbing for some people, but it’s what I experienced. We talk about putting truth on the stage. Sometimes, the truth disturbs people, and they want to look away.
When I wrote Sweat—and it’s very different from the other work that I do—I describe myself as being very angry, and I was in that moment. I felt like a large swath of people in America were being ignored. I felt like there was a crisis coming, and I feel sort of vindicated. Because when I wrote it, I thought it was not understood until it was understood.
HARRIS: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, my experience seeing that play and witnessing it—the way I witnessed it through the lens I witnessed it in—was something that made me acutely empathetic to Black audiences who said they couldn’t watch Slave Play with white people.
Because I recognize that my trigger—and this is just my own thing, the thing that I’ve always been the most protective of and the most insecure about—is my class. I’ve always been the only Black person in a room full of white people who was very loudly and aggressively Black, and reminded them of what James Baldwin said in like 11th grade, you know? Whereas, when it comes to class stuff, I get so much more uncomfortable when I’m with a bunch of white people laughing and not realizing that it’s not funny if you grew up poor. You know what I mean?
NOTTAGE: I remember when I was in college, and people would want to go to slum in these bars. And I thought, you know, that’s not funny. These are the sanctuaries for people. You’re not there to gawk and to make fun of them. And I was like, I will not go. Because I understood.
HARRIS: That’s a real thing. All these sensitivities are also part of the thing that make it so interesting to be Black, right? So yeah, when people were saying that they didn’t like Slave Play because of being around all these white people, or even saying, “I think this play only is only for white people.”
And I had never forgotten that the best audience I ever had for this play—and the reason I knew my play worked at Yale—were the Black students, specifically the Black female students in the acting department.
Essentially, 75 percent of my audience on the two nights we did my play at Yale were Black people. And brown people. It was mainly a BIPOC audience with those couple of, you know, New Haven fans of the Yale School of Drama.
NOTTAGE: I love those people who just consistently came. No, it’s like ‘cause they’ve seen everything from the 1970s onward.
HARRIS: Yeah. So when those things were said about, you know, the play being for white people. Well, there’s no way to prove that this works with an audience full of Black people unless I can get an audience full of Black people, right?
That was in the back of my head for months. And then I did an interview with my friend Colella. And Colella said to me like, “I love this play, but it was so frustrating to sit in the audience the three times I saw it, and look up and look into the mirror, and see so many white people behind me.” ‘Cause every time she saw it, she sat in the front row. So, she was with a group of Black and brown people, but then she’d look up and see white people in the mirror. And she was like, “Goddammit.” She was like, “I just wanted more Black people to see this play. So I dare you, the next time you do this play, to do it with all Black people.” And I was like, okay. This is before I knew we were going to Broadway.
And then Broadway happens, and the first conversation we have, I’m like, “Hey guys, hey guys. So I have this idea. We have to do it for only Black people.” And everyone was like, “What?” And there was so much fear, right? Because there’s generally no Black plays on Broadway. Every time you go see a straight play on Broadway, it’s a white-out.
HARRIS: One of the major problems with these theaters is that, because they’re run by so many white people, they don’t even think about bringing people of color into the show.
NOTTAGE: No. Except for Black shows. Or BIPOC shows.
NOTTAGE: I mean, which I think is intentionally problematic because they’re not nurturing us across the season and just, you know, drop us in and drop us out. You know, it’s almost like we’re bussed in and then bussed immediately out after our shows.
HARRIS: Exactly. And I think that part of the reason it became really exciting for everyone that we did a Black Out was because I kept telling people, I was like, “Guys, the reason we have to do this is that this is a radical invitation.”
This is a radical invitation. The minute that people aren’t the only person in a theater that looks like them is a minute they can reimagine what the theatre is supposed to be or can look like. And that will make more people of color want to go en masse to see Will Arbery on Broadway, Aleshea Harris on Broadway, Celine Song on Broadway.
All these other young playwrights that have excited young audiences, the minute that it’s not a stuffy place—it’s just like a building that we run any way we want—I think that it can change.
NOTTAGE: Now is the moment for us to be pressuring Broadway to begin to change. Particularly when we have this pause with COVID, there’s an entire year in which the spaces are closed down, in which they can be re-imagining how to re-invite folks across the thresholds.
HARRIS: Absolutely. I mean, I think it’s disgusting that if you look at who’s in the Broadway League, it’s like 5,000 white people and no artists.
NOTTAGE: Well, the Broadway League. I was invited just before COVID to go to their conference, which was in the Bahamas. And I delivered a speech in which I did center diversity as my theme. And I realized that I was speaking to an audience that was predominantly white, and I think there are only two people of color in the crowd.
One was Kenny Leon, and another was a producer. And that was it. And I was kind of shocked, because I thought, “I don’t think that this message is going to land if they’re not doing the essential work in their own house.”
I think that the Broadway League has to be a major target in our fight for diversity and equity, because they are the theater owners, and they are the producers. And they’re the ones who are going to be making those essential decisions about what shows get produced and presented. And unless they are willing to change their body, nothing is going to change.
NOTTAGE: But can I say, just with regards to Black Out, one of the things that I’ve been very insistent on doing throughout my career—and I’ve spoken to other Black and BIPOC artists—is that, when it comes to licensing your play around the country, in cities that have large, Black, regional theaters, I always permit them to have first dibs on the play before the large regional theaters. So in Minneapolis, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, the Guthrie wanted to do it. I let it go to Penumbra. In San Francisco, the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is doing Intimate Apparel and is making the decisions. The first theaters that did my play throughout Canada for Ruined were the Black theaters.
So, it’s a way of ensuring that you have your audience but also empowering these theaters by giving them premieres that are significant. And you have the power to do that.
HARRIS: I think that’s so important to have on the record. A big reason why I’m so loud on Twitter about what my journey has been is that I had the privilege of being in grad school and having a safe haven for the year that I was entering the professional world.
So, I got to experiment in the real world with how far I could get by saying “yes” and how far I can get by saying “no,” and being unapologetically committed to my own ideas. There are so many things that playwrights have the rights to that generally, we deny ourselves, because we don’t know that we can ask. And theaters can impose upon us their own generally white supremacist or heteropatriarchal will because they’re too lazy to do anything else, you know? The fact that I became a producer on Slave Play on Broadway was simply because I was like, “Hardcore, I will not even take this play to Broadway unless this is a fact of the play.” Right? And I talked about it a lot, so that hopefully more playwrights—
NOTTAGE: —would feel empowered to do that.
HARRIS: Exactly, exactly. One of the reasons why those spaces are as white and male as they are—and so devoid of artists—is because not enough of us have fought to be producers.
I think more producers should fight for artists to be producers on the shows. ‘Cause it’s like, you wouldn’t have a show to produce if he wasn’t right there or if she wasn’t there, or if they weren’t right there, you know.
NOTTAGE: And also, to have the artists be part of making some of those key decisions in terms of marketing and advertising, because no one knows the play better than the artist.
HARRIS: 100 percent. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot, because I dated an executive, and it didn’t work. But I siphoned a lot of information from them about how their side of the business works.
And also, since the very beginning—I have a young agent, and I had a young producer on my Broadway shows—there wasn’t those egos built into age in our titles. So, I’ve learned a lot. When I tell people—even peers about what I’ve learned—they’re like, “Why didn’t I learn this in grad school?”
NOTTAGE: I know at Columbia that we are very intentional with how we introduce the reality of the business to the students. And we encourage the students to take some of the theatre production courses, just so that they’re armed with information. I have an entire class, which is dedicated to help playwrights begin to think about how they want to build careers, and what tools that I can help them acquire, so that they can succeed. It doesn’t always work, but at least I’m beginning to introduce them to the realities.
And part of what I do with the course is like, you have to begin applying for everything that you can. So number one, you get used to rejection, and understanding that rejection is part of the business. But also, you’re putting your name out there in a way that can yield some rewards or, at the very least, let people know who you are. But we do try and push our students out into the real world as soon as we can, so that they can collide with the reality.
HARRIS: I love that. I always feel like someone who’s like, “Wah wah, I hate Yale.” I learned so much there, and I made so many of the best connections there. But I do think that one of the issues with most of these institutions—but especially Yale, which is specifically steeped in white, heteropatriarchy in its bones—is the fact that so many of the teachers went to Yale.
NOTTAGE: It’s incestuous.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. So, new ideas don’t permeate the walls very much. Sometimes I’m like, “I want to go back and teach at Yale,” and I’m like, “No, Jeremy, you don’t.”
NOTTAGE: Yeah, but I think that you would be a fabulous teacher. When I was a young playwright, I thought, “I will never do this.” And then when I began teaching, what I realized is that it allowed me to articulate my own artistic aesthetic in ways that continue to challenge me to this moment, and that every class is so different. And I feel like I’m learning new vocabularies through my students that I wouldn’t necessarily have access to if I was just out in the world.
“What I’m really clear about with my students is that when you’re engaging with work, there’s a difference between work that you feel actively harms you, and work that actively challenges you. And you have to take a moment and assess that.”
NOTTAGE: You know, my class this year at Columbia—I have 10 students. Five are nonbinary, and they are writing work that is entirely fresh and structured in ways that I find intriguing and challenging. And I thought, “I would not see this work until it comes out, but now I’m seeing it, and I’m helping nurture it, because it’s going to be the next wave.”
HARRIS: I’ve been being asked, in this Zoom landscape we’ve been in, to do a lot of talks with students about how to be virulently protective of finding their voice and experimentation. Because I worry so much about young people right now, who are steeped in a politicized air that I think no other generation has been.
NOTTAGE: I think that we’re in a moment of reactionary politics on both sides. What I’m really clear about with my students is that when you’re engaging with work, there’s a difference between work that you feel actively harms you, and work that actively challenges you. And you have to take a moment and assess that. Because I think that there’s this impulse right now in this reactionary moment for work that challenges you to be shut down before you interrogate it and you go into it. My motto is, “Replace judgment with curiosity.” Ask the questions of the art before saying, “I am not going to engage with it.”
HARRIS: Completely—and also, learning it’s important to think that certain work is repugnant and not good, you know, while also recognizing that the work is not a person, and it’s definitely not necessarily the person that wrote it.
Because I think that imperfection in art is what drives new and better art. Whenever I see a play that I really fucking hate, it generally stays in my mind long enough that I talk to everyone around me about why I fucking hated that play and then leave it with a new idea based on this idea that has come from hating this other play.
NOTTAGE: Right. It’s something that sort of challenges you to go deeper into why you have the feelings you have.
HARRIS: Yeah. Why can’t we live in a realm where playwriting can be like hip hop—where you see something that you don’t like, and you make a diss track about it?
NOTTAGE: Isn’t that what Ishmael Reed did with Hamilton?
HARRIS: Yes! And it was so fucking good. Every Black person—I’ve been on a group text where they’ve talked shit about Hamilton—fucking write about it. Write something better than Hamilton, you know? And that’s what Ishmael Reed did, and it was so beautiful and so cool. And now, if Lin[-Manuel Miranda] wants to respond to that, he can.
I’m more interested in people using all of these feelings of frustration and miscommunication and imperfect art to make more art that is perfect or imperfect.
NOTTAGE: What I hear embedded in what you’re saying is that we should be more in conversation with each other as artists. Whereas, we often do feel like we are creating art in our own individual silos, rather than being in the active dialogue with each other.
HARRIS: Completely. I think that’s a part of my own ethos of what I do, right? I don’t think I’ve ever written something that wasn’t connected directly to some trauma that I’m trying to unpack from a specific moment, right?
Slave Play is completely inspired by being with a bunch of people, and one person says, “I’m engaging in this, you know, hyper-Dom-y sex with my partner.” And then I was like, “Well, would you feel comfortable saying that if that partner was Black?” And he was like, “Absolutely not. I would never do something like that.” And I was like, “Well, why is it okay for you to tell this white girl all of these horrible things about herself, but if a Black woman wanted to ask you to do the same thing, it stops being okay to you?” Which I found just really curious.
NOTTAGE: And I guess that is true for me as well. All of my work comes from questions that I had. Either the bad experiences—a lot of my work comes from things that disturbed me profoundly—or ideas that I can’t shake that haunt me, and I feel like I have to go deeper.
I mean, Sweat, for me, came from a neighbor confessing that she was completely broke and was ashamed of it and didn’t want to tell anyone. And I was one of her best friends, and I thought, “How could you hide that from me for six months?”
You know, when I was writing Ruined, I originally had wanted to do a modern adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. And when I was in Africa interviewing Congolese refugees, I would just ask, because I was curious, “What do the words ‘mother courage’ mean to you?” And they all were like, “Yes, Mother courage. Yes, that’s what it is. Mother courage, mother courage. That’s how we survive.” And I thought, I want to create a play around that notion, and the way that woman said the words “mother courage.”
HARRIS: Wow. That’s amazing.
NOTTAGE: You know, and I saw the way their eyes lit up, and that the words had this real, profound meaning. And I held onto that. Because that’s how they survived—this “mother courage.”
HARRIS: That reminds me that one of the few plays I have started in lockdown is my own Brecht adaptation.
NOTTAGE: Oh, what are you adapting?
HARRIS: I’m adapting scenes from The Master Race. It’s a play that no one ever does.
NOTTAGE: Yeah, I’ve never even read it.
HARRIS: It’s so good. It’s so good. And it’s very of this moment. And it’s something that I do want to write. Because we’ve all had to deal with so many people engaging with their imaginaries of Black people in moments of crisis, right? So many white people writing about our lives in moments of crisis. And I’m like, “What does it look like when I do the same?”
But what have you been working on?
NOTTAGE: I’m working on coming up with a new title for one of my plays, which was set actually to come to New York in the fall, but has been postponed. My play was called Floyd’s and it premiered in Minneapolis last year, and I thought, “I’m going to have to come up with a new title.”
HARRIS: Do you feel like you necessarily have to?
NOTTAGE: I do. I think that there’s going to be an expectation because it premiered in Minneapolis, and that’s the title—that it’s going to be about George Floyd. And the play is a comedy, and it’s about mindfulness and redemption. And I don’t want people coming in with any preconceived notions. I want people to meet the play where it is, and I feel like that title is going to misdirect.
NOTTAGE: So, that’s one of my big things, and it sounds small, but I haven’t really been writing any theatre, like you. I have commissions to write screenplays, which I’m very behind on.
HARRIS: Yes, yes.
NOTTAGE: And so, I’m just struggling with, how do you do that? Particularly because we’re at such a different moment, and I would love to hear you talk about this.
HARRIS: I am so with you. There were things I was really excited about doing as a Black maker in a cinema landscape that I’m sort of navigating right now, like what my responsibilities are.
I think something that’s really still very politically important to me is Black makers working—‘cause the thing that’s beautiful about being nonwhite is that we have all been taught everything we need to talk about white culture, right?
NOTTAGE: Yes, we’ve been immersed completely.
HARRIS: There’s this wild ability that we have to actually be culturally specific about whiteness while also being critical of it, right? So, I wanted to start that dialogue in some of my new film and television projects. And so, two of the things I was working on—one of them has a Black and white lead and one of them has a white lead.
And the thing that’s harder now is knowing that I do have all of these eyes on me. I mean, here I am doing a TV show on HBO with a white person. It’s like, “Oh, fuck.” You know what I mean?
NOTTAGE: I think that’s interesting, and it’s okay, because you think about the way in which you can frame this moment is so different and so necessary. And I feel very excited to see how, as Black writers, we filter and dissect whiteness on the screen.
HARRIS: Absolutely. I mean, I think a lot about the fact that so many Black musical theatre people love, love, love The Color Purple. You are aware that Marsha Norman wrote that book, right? You know what I mean? And, like, that’s so curious to me—that in our theatrical imagination of Blackness, so many of our most celebrated stories and musicals have books and lyrics and music all done by white people. Dreamgirls is all white people.
NOTTAGE: That’s right.
HARRIS: And I’m like, how do we fix that? Is it me remaking Oklahoma? You know what I mean?
NOTTAGE: No, but it is. One of the big projects, which I’m actually very excited about, is a television project of a very famous novel written by a white man. And I’m doing the adaptation for the miniseries.
HARRIS: I love that.
NOTTAGE: And I—you know, at first, I had trepidation, but I thought, “Why the hell not?”
NOTTAGE: And why shouldn’t I be the one? I can go inside of this book and perhaps tend to areas that were neglected.
HARRIS: After that Flannery O’Connor essay, I’ve been dying for a Black person to write a Flannery O’Connor adaptation.
NOTTAGE: How did you feel about that?
HARRIS: It’s so wild. I mean, the letters about James Baldwin were just funny to me.
NOTTAGE: There’s nothing in that essay that surprised me.
NOTTAGE: What surprises me is that people would be surprised.
HARRIS: Yes. I’m just so interested in when people actually start engaging with Tennessee Williams’s diaries and realize that he was racist, too. There’s going to be a litany, you know?
But thank you for making me feel a little more at ease about that. Because I do feel complicated about it in this current moment of being like, “Is my job to tell as many stories as possible, or is my job solely to tell stories about the Black community that uplift the Black community?”
NOTTAGE: I would say your job is just the reframing of the world, whether it’s stories about Black or white. And I think that you have a unique filter, and I want to see the world through that filter.
HARRIS: As you know, I didn’t sign the “We see you” letter.
NOTTAGE: I know, I wish you had, but. . .
HARRIS: I felt like it was complicated for a lot of reasons. One being, you know, wondering how many artistic directors were on the list.
Like, you might be a BIPOC artistic director, but one of the biggest things I think needs to be abolished is the artistic directorship. I was watching the newest season of Chef’s Table, which has this restaurateur named Asma Khan, who is an Indian woman who runs a restaurant in London.
The non-hierarchical space of her kitchen is, for me, the ideal version of running a theatre. I also think that I don’t know that I want to step out unless I’m literally telling everyone, like, “Burn it all down,” you know?
NOTTAGE: I think that the “We see you” letter was very much the first step, which was designed to be sort of a provocative indictment of these white institutions. You know, ranging from universities to commercial statements. It was also meant to be a collective that was representative of the full diversity of BIPOC theatre makers. In order to be successful, the collective has to be all-inclusive.
And I don’t disagree. I think that in some ways for theatre to work better is that we have to figure out—how do we dismantle, you know, this Eurocentric patriarchal structure that, in some ways, has really damaged us.
HARRIS: Yeah. I was really excited about everyone sort of standing together in a line and being like, “We are all BIPOCs,” you know. But I was so much more excited about us making some demand that like, “Jim Nicola: step down. Lynne Meadow: step down.”
NOTTAGE: And I think that the collective is going to continue to be proactive and provocative in ways, and the strength of it is that it is fully representative of the diversity of BIPOC theatre makers.
HARRIS: Yeah, completely. And again, I think that one of the things that I want to put a lot of my personal energy in is creating new models that either institutions can follow or other artists can follow. Partially because I look at some of the names on that list, and knowing my own working relationship with some of those people that aren’t Black, I don’t know that they’ll jump in the same way that I’ll jump, or when I jump. And that makes me nervous.
NOTTAGE: I hear you.
HARRIS: And I feel like I so deeply and vibrantly want Black leadership, specifically Black female leadership. Because like I said, in that tweet, the only living playwright in the country with two Pulitzer prizes is a Black woman that I’m now on a podcast with. The only actor in the country ever to win the most Tonys is a Black woman. The contributions of Black women to the American theatre are so immense and so important and so ignored. It’s not about replacing white men with Black women, and things are going to be solved—because Audre Lorde has already told us, that’s not how it works—but I do think that in the interim, I would be more interested in hearing their ideas than like almost anyone else’s. ‘Cause obviously, you guys have been leading us in so many ways, culturally, and we’ve been consuming you in so many ways, culturally, that it might be time for us to take a pause, and have you be our main mouthpieces, you know.
NOTTAGE: Yeah. I hear you, and I think that there are so many Black women who are so prepared and ready to step into those leadership roles. If you just look at the artistic leadership of some of the institutions in New York City, artistic directors—in some cases, the founding artistic directors—have been there, like Lynne Meadow, for 51 years.
HARRIS: Yeah, it’s insane.
NOTTAGE: Todd Haimes, for 41 years—and my numbers may not be 100 percent accurate—or André Bishop, and Oskar Eustis and Carole Rothman. There really is a moment for them to consider whether they’ve been there too long, and whether they’re in touch with the realities of the world and where we’re heading. I think that there will be pressure for them to consider resigning and making room for new artistic leadership.
HARRIS: I hope so, because I’ve never once truly invested in any of these artistic leaders. One of the reasons I perceived it being difficult for immediate demands to be made is that we all have different relationships with different people, right?
One of the reasons I forced myself to say Jim Nicola’s name is that I love Jim. Jim has been my artistic champion and one of my favorite people to talk about theatre with and to make theatre with. But I also recognize the fact that Jim has been an artistic director since before I was born.
NOTTAGE: Right. He needs to make room.
“I feel like I so deeply and vibrantly want Black leadership, specifically Black female leadership. Because like I said, in that tweet, the only living playwright in the country with two Pulitzer prizes is a Black woman that I’m now on a podcast with.”
—Jeremy O. Harris
HARRIS: Exactly. That’s something that is complicated, right? Because I also don’t think that his voice isn’t necessary. But I think that his voice can be a part of a chorus of voices—and maybe we need a new choir director, you know.
NOTTAGE: I sort of loved the model of the National Theatre where artistic leadership rotates.
HARRIS: Yes, yeah.
NOTTAGE: You know, it’s like the presidency. We recognize that we don’t need dictators. And dictatorships are dangerous and not healthy for democracy. That’s why artistic leadership in New York in particular is so problematic, because you have people who’ve been making vital decisions about what we see and hear on stages for the last 50 years.
HARRIS: And those people have been saying year after year, “I’m learning. I’m learning.”
NOTTAGE: And you look at not just the top of the leadership, but filtering down through the administrations at these theaters. There’s very, very few BIPOC people who are in key artistic positions.
HARRIS: And when you talk to almost any of them, they all feel disempowered.
NOTTAGE: Yeah. Circling back here at the beginning of the conversation is that I know I can’t return to the theatre ecosystem until it’s vastly different. And this little pause has allowed me to realize that I can survive without theatre for a little while and still feel artistically nourished in other ways. And I don’t have to go back to a place that was fundamentally toxic to my creative process.
NOTTAGE: And I think, the more of us who can say that, the more pressure we can apply. And that’s in part why I signed “We see you.” I just want to say, collectively, that we’re really frustrated and angry. We feel disenfranchised. We feel diminished. We feel all of these things. And we want you to know that we see you.
These Truths is a production of PEN World Voices Festival. Nancy Vitale produced and edited the series. Jared Jackson provided editorial guidance. Special thanks to Nicole Gervasio, Viviane Eng, Emily Folan, and Cameron Lee.
About Lynn Nottage
Lynn Nottage is a playwright. Her most recent works include the opera adaptation Intimate Apparel (Lincoln Center Theater), Floyd’s (Guthrie Theater), and The Secret Life of Bees musical (Atlantic Theater Company), and her upcoming production is MJ (Broadway). Past plays include: Mlima’s Tale; Sweat, which won the Pulitzer Prize, an Obie Award, an Evening Standard Award, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, which won the Lilly Award; Ruined, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, an Obie, the Lucille Lortel Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, AUDELCO, Drama Desk, and OCC awards; and Intimate Apparel, recipient of American Theatre Critics and NYDCC awards. Her TV credits include writer/producer of She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix). Her career has been recognized with the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award, Doris Duke Artist Award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a Guggenheim Grant, and a Lucille Lortel Fellowship. Her production company Market Road Films recently produced the Stitcher Podcast Unfinished: Deep South. She is an associate professor at Columbia.
Visit her website for upcoming projects lynnnottage.com.
About Jeremy O. Harris
Jeremy O. Harris is a writer and performer living in New York City. His plays include: Slave Play (The Golden Theatre – Broadway, New York Theatre Workshop), Black Exhibition (The Bushwick Starr), Dragon: 1 and WATER SPORTS; or insignificant white boys (published by 53rd State Press), and A Boy’s Company Presents: “Tell Me If I’m Hurting You” (Playwrights Horizons). His work has been presented or developed by Pieter Space, JACK, Ars Nova, The New Group, New York Theatre Workshop, Performance Space New York, and Playwrights Horizons. Jeremy co-wrote A24’s upcoming film Zola with director Janicza Bravo, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. He is the eleventh recipient of the Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, a 2016 MacDowell Colony Fellow, and a recipient of the HRC’s 2020 Equality Award, in addition to being under commission from Lincoln Center Theater and Playwrights Horizons. Jeremy is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama with an M.F.A. in playwriting.
Visit his website for upcoming projects jeremyoharris.me.