Jeremy O. Harris: On Yale, 'Yell' And The American Theater
At six-foot-five, sporting a towering Afro and wearing a mustard yellow Acne Studios denim outfit and black Doc Martens, Jeremy O. Harris could stop traffic – or at least act as a warning to proceed with caution.
His two plays that premiered this past season in New York, “Slave Play” and “Daddy,” have proclaimed just as boldly that this queer, black playwright is someone to be reckoned with as he explores taboo subjects of sex, desire and race.
“There should be a 13th astrological house created to be able to comprehend him,” says James Nicola, artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop who put ‘Slave Play’ on the fast track to production last year. “It would be the House of Theatrics. Almost no one I’ve met has such a vibrant, innate impulse to dramatize, to tell a story. When we first encountered ‘Slave Play,’ this is what immediately struck me – his outrageous theatricality, coupled to his wit and his compassion.”
Arriving at Heirloom Restaurant in New Haven for this interview, his physicality is imposing at first but immediately softens with his broad, welcoming smile, warm exuberance, and casual chat about mutual acquaintances.
Throughout the burger-and-Coke lunch, Harris speaks with the speed, fluidity and flourish of a supremely confident young man on the run, dashing to meet deadlines and confounding expectations, while dodging people and policies that stand in his way. He speaks with humor, charm and frankness about a wide variety of subjects, including his experience at Yale School of Drama, his outlook on the changes in American theater, and his plans to live in Berlin, Germany.
In May, Harris, who turns 30 in June, graduated from the three-year graduate playwriting program at Yale School of Drama. While that would be seen as a career launch for most students, Harris is already in full orbit.