We're Not Gonna Take It

Jeremy O. Harris Cancels LA Run of “Slave Play” Due To Gender Inequity

“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ hit show that became the most Tony-nominated debut play in history this year (before being ROBBED at the ceremony), was set to begin its first run outside of New York City at the Mark Taper Forum, part of Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group. But Harris has announced that he’s cancelling the production due to the lack of women playwrights in the Group’s season.

Harris’ announcement came in the form of an email he’d sent to the Group’s staff, which he then posted a screenshot of to Twitter.

“Dear all,” he wrote. “I’m emailing to let you know the reason why I haven’t shared much digital enthusiasm for the season. 

“As a playwright who holds dear the principles of both inclusion [sic] it was a shock to realize that this season was programmed with only 1 woman across all theatres. As an Angeleno and a lover of theatre, I think Los Angeles audiences deserve an equitable showing of the playwrights working in the U.S. right now.”

In addition to the Mark Taper Forum, the Group consists of the Ahmanson Theatre and the King Douglas Theatre. Indeed, only a single play across all three theaters’ planned seasons, “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” was written by a woman, Pearl Cleage.

“I’ve spoken to my team and would like to begin the process of removing Slave Play from the season at this time,” Harris continued. “Hopefully in its place some young playwrights I love may be able to join the fold like: Celine Song, Tori Sampson, Alesha Harris, Claire Keichel, Antoinette Nwandu, Ming Pfeiffer, Whitney White, Clare Barron, Majkin Holmquist, Genne Murphy, Aziza Barnes, and so many more.”

Center Theater Group had been promoting the “Slave Play” run on social media as recently as October 1. But it took to Twitter itself to indirectly respond to Harris’ announcement.

“We understand your frustration, disappointment, and even anger in the scarcity of women’s voices in the upcoming seasons,” it wrote. “Although we have assembled a lineup featuring voices from many standpoints and identities, we acknowledge that we’ve fallen short of your expectations (and our own) in regards to gender equity, and for that, we apologize. We can and will do better.”

Harris wasn’t the first to call out the Group’s inequity. On Monday, writer and AIDS historian Sarah Schulman also tweeted about the exclusion.

“I emerged as a playwright decades ago into a world of all-male, all-white seasons — with all-male, all-white critics who were hostile to women writers who had perspectives different from the men who ran the world,” she wrote in a thread. “Because we were initially dismissed by an inequitable system we have clouds hanging over our work. We have had to endure generations of watching our male peers getting opportunities we have never had.”

“There are hundreds of women my age who never had a fair chance yet still create because we are playwrights in our souls,” she continued. “Today the Mark Taper Forum announced their new ten-play season in which the great Pearl Cleage is the only [woman] included. HOW CAN THIS STILL BE? It is so depressing, stupid, and enraging. When is this going to end?”

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