Citing the lack of women playwrights featured in the lineup of the Mark Taper Forum, playwright Jeremy O. Harris has canceled the entry of his Tony-nominated work, “Slave Play.”
Harris broke this news in an email he sent to executives of L.A.’s Center Theater Group — which oversees the Mark Taper Forum in addition to other nearby theaters. The email has since been reproduced in a Tweet by Harris himself. In the email, Harris points out that only one woman playwright has been scheduled across all theaters.
In a statement emailed to TheWrap, the theatre group’s managing director and CEO Meghan Pressman and artistic director Michael Ritchie apologized, saying “We can and will do better.”
“We want to reassure our community that we remain intensely focused on our mission of reflecting and serving the many communities of Los Angeles,” they said. “We have already begun work on 2022-2023 seasons that include a commitment to gender equity amongst playwrights for CTG produced shows. The opening production already slated for the 2022-2023 season at the Mark Taper Forum is written by a woman of color.”
Pressman and Ritchie acknowledged their audience and patrons that support them despite missteps. This includes Harris.
“We respect Jeremy’s opinion and believe in him as an artist,” they said. “We hope to continue our relationship with him going forward. We are regrouping and will be able to share more in the coming days about the impact on our upcoming season.”
“As an Angeleno and a lover of theatre I think Los Angeles audiences deserve an equitable showing of the playwrights working in the US right now,” he wrote. “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, outlining his hopes for who could step up in place of his play.
“Hopefully in its place some young playwrights I love might be able to join the fold like: Celine Song, Tori Sampson, Aleshea Harris, Claire Keichel Antoinette Nwandu, Ming Pfeiffer, Whitney White, Clare Barron, Majkin Holmquist, Genne Murphy, Aziza Barnes and so many more.”
“Slave Play’s” West Coast premiere would have begun at Central Theater Group’s Taper Feb. 9, running through March 13. The theater group’s 2020-21 season had previously been postponed amid the pandemic.