Name: Jeremy O. Harris
Who is he: Playwright and actor
What he’s accomplished: In December 2018, Harris’ play “Slave Play” debuted at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it received rave reviews. The play explores themes of race, sex, and sexuality on a slave plantation in the Antebellum South.
Also in 2018, he won the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Rosa Parks Playwriting Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, and the Lotos Foundation Prize, and he was deemed by Out magazine “the queer black savior the theater world needs.”
Then in February 2019, his play “Daddy” opened Off-Broadway in a co-production by the New Group and Vineyard Theater starring Alan Cumming. It, too, received rave reviews and tells the story of a young black artist who connects with a rich white art collector who becomes his sugar daddy.
Oh, and did we mention Harris did all this before he turned 30 and while he was still working on his M.F.A. in playwriting?
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Why we’re proud: Harris isn’t afraid to address hot button issues head-on. His work directly confronts difficult topics like white supremacy, heterosexism, racism, and classism. And he isn’t worried about who he provokes or offends. His only concern is holding a mirror up to society and forcing people to look in a dramatic way.
“I don’t like to ask permission,” he told Vulture in March 2019. “I just like to do a thing. … I’m free. I’m going to do it.”
The significance of what he has accomplished isn’t lost of him either.
Speaking to the New York Times last November, Harris said, “It’s really humbling and feels crazy … I’m really excited that this gets to happen for a black queer person because it’s creating a new conversation about how big we can imagine.”
Not only does he challenge audiences to think more deeply about important issues that matter, but he serves as an inspiration for other black queer artists, both young and old, whose voices have yet to be heard.