Skip to content

Jeremy O. Harris on directing his ‘Slave Play’ documentary

The Tony Award-nominated author is at the helm of “Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play.”

Jeremy O. Harris in “Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play.” (Credit: Courtesy of HBO)

Jeremy O. Harris didn’t want to make a movie of “Slave Play”; he intentionally chose theater as the medium for his story about race, sex and colonization. “I trust the tradition more,” Harris says of theater as compared to film in his new documentary “Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play.” While viewers might think Harris betrayed that ideology simply by making a documentary, the playwright-now-filmmaker proves them wrong.

“Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play.” debuted at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival on June 10. Harris directs the documentary, which is being released on Max on June 20. Harris earned a Best Play Tony Award nomination for his controversial “Slave Play,” which first bowed on Broadway on Oct. 6, 2019 at the John Golden Theatre and received a return Main Stem engagement at the August Wilson Theatre in December of 2021. 

“Slave Play” follows three interracial couples — each including one Black partner — undergoing “antebellum sexual performance therapy.” The play’s title speaks to its grappling with slavery as well as the sexual slavery role-play the characters engage in. 

Harris’ play polarized audiences. In fact, his documentary begins with a viral video of an angry audience member yelling at Harris during a post-show talkback that became synonymous with the play. “It was important [to include] as a preamble to recognize the things that an audience who is aware of the play were coming to it with, whether they have positive associations or negative,” said Harris. “It’s also me articulating to the audience: Yes, I saw your YouTube videos. I saw all your TikToks. I read all the tweets. I’m aware [of what you think of me], too. Now let me show you who I actually am.”

Introductory Offer

$1/month for 6 months


Already have an account? Log in