Playwright Jeremy O. Harris Responds to 'Moral Panic' Over Slave Play Black Out Performances | Playbill

London News Playwright Jeremy O. Harris Responds to 'Moral Panic' Over Slave Play Black Out Performances

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is upset that two performances of the playwright's show will be set aside for Black audiences.

Jeremy O. Harris Rebecca J Michelson

Jeremy O. HarrisSlave Play is again attracting hot takes on social media. That's not altogether surprising for the decidedly incendiary 2018 play, which depicts its characters attending a group Antebellum South-themed sexual therapy session. But that's actually not what has people talking, this time at least.

Following the recent announcement that the work is West End-bound, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has weighed in on the production's planned Black Out nights, performances aimed at offering Black audience members a special opportunity to see the show with a majority Black audience. Sunak, according to a statement released February 29, is concerned the scheme is preventing the arts from being "inclusive and open to everyone," specifically citing that the audience restriction is "wrong and divisive" partially due to the production's venue being "in receipt of public funding."

"It’s a statement of principle that clearly the arts should be inclusive," reads the P.M.'s statement. "And I think that particular taxpayers would particularly expect that to be the case when public funding is involved." Slave Play is running June 29-September 21 at the Noël Coward Theatre, which is a commercial theatre that is not publicly funded (contrary to the P.M.'s erroneous claims).

Harris, no stranger to sharing his own takes online, was quick to respond with a thread on X (formerly Twitter). "In a slight rage over the moral panic that a certain aspect of the British public have frothed up around Black Out nights, two nights out of over a hundred, that have seen audience members of all races in attendance over the last four years since its inception on Broadway," writes Harris.

As Harris writes, these Black Out nights are indeed not new. Harris began the initiative during Slave Play's first Broadway run in 2019, and the events were met with very little criticism. It's also worth mentioning, as Harris points out, that non-Black audiences are not turned away from Black Out performances. The events are simply intended for and marketed at Black audiences, a chance to flip the script on otherwise overwhelmingly white audiences at most other performances. According to Harris, the previous Black Out night on Broadway had 800 out of 804 seats filled with Black patrons.

But most importantly, Black Out nights are not even new to London. Similar events have been offered during recent runs of Tambo and Bones, along with a production of Harris' Daddy.

"This has happened in NYC, LA, and London (yes already happened in London!) to great acclaim. And you didn't notice. Because you don't care," continues Harris in his X thread. "The portion of the population making this a moment of some sort of moral outrage are the same portion who barely engage with culture because to engage in it would challenge your anxious attachment to a past you never experienced but idealize. I make my work for the now and people of it. People who want to see the audience around them look like the people in their neighborhood or from their tube ride. That only happens with things like Black Out nights, one pound ticket offers, and direct communication with young people. If this upsets you? Kick rocks."

Black Out nights are currently planned for July 17 and September 17.

The cast of Slave Play will be led by Game of Thrones' Kit Harington and Olivia Washington, both new to the production, alongside Fisayo Akinade and Aaron Heffernan.

The London cast will also include actors from the 2018 Off-Broadway and 2019 Broadway productions, including James Cusati-Moyer as Dustin, Chalia La Tour as Teá, Annie McNamara as Alana, and Irene Sofia Lucio as Patricia. McNamra, La Tour, and Cusati-Moyer all received 2020 Tony nominations for their performances. Casting is by Amy Ball, with original U.S. casting by Taylor Williams.

The Broadway bow became the most Tony-nominated play in Tony Awards history, receiving 12 nods, though winning none.

The entire original creative team will return alongside director Robert O'Hara, including scenic designer Clint Ramos, costume designer Dede Ayite, lighting designer Jiyoun Chang, and composer and sound designer Lindsay Jones.

The London premiere is being produced by Empire Street Productions, Seaview Productions, and bb2. Visit for more.

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