New York Magazine

Jeremy O. Harris Dares You to Look

Playwright. Provocateur. Grad student. A whirlwind day in the life of the author of Slave Play and Daddy.

IN THE WINTER of 2015, the playwright Jeremy O. Harris decided to write Slave Play as a bit of a dare. He was at a holiday party in Prospect Heights, where he got into a heated debate with a group of writers about “erotics, desire, and who gets to own fantasy.” One of them, a straight white guy, said he had recently enjoyed enacting a rape fantasy with a partner. Feeling his Socratic self, Harris decided to troll him. “You could rape anyone, any day,” he said. “You probably have raped someone. What does that mean that you’re owning this?” Then he took it further, asking if the guy would feel the same about rape play if his partner were black. “Everything got really tense for everyone,” Harris recalls. “I was like, Wait. Why is it tense now, but it wasn’t tense before?

At that moment, the idea for Slave Play sprung from his brain almost fully formed. “First act, second act,” he says during a late-night car ride from New York to New Haven, where he’s a third-year student in the playwriting M.F.A. program at Yale. “I’m going to write this.” Slave Play would imagine what rape play would look like for an interracial couple into antebellum costumes. The first act

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