Say what?

How not to reconnect with an old hook-up who’s now famous

Jeremy O. Harris
Jeremy O. Harris on Late Night with Seth Myers last October (Photo: YouTube)

A tweet from the actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris has gone viral. Harris is the queer writer behind the Slave Play, which enjoyed a recent run at the John Golden Theatre in New York City.

The play prompted much debate around interracial relationships and Harris saw his profile soar, with numerous magazine profiles and appearances on chat shows including Late Night with Seth Myers.

Harris’s success has been noted by some of those who have known him in the past. A person with whom Harris says he enjoyed a “hook-up” at college, reached out to him.

It wasn’t to extend congratulations… but some unsolicited criticism.

“Someone I hooked up with in college decided to send me this tonight. I love the internet,” tweeted Harris.

He attached screenshots of the conversation.

“Read the first third of your play,” began the former acquaintance’s message. “I can’t make any sense of this. Ellipses all over. I’m a little disappointed.

Related: Queer playwright Jeremy O. Harris scams Seth Myers and it’s beautiful

“Draw your characters with strength and contrasts. Most of them feel like the same person: you,” they suggest.

“I am truly glad you have found success with this piece, but it doesn’t do me so well.”

Harris texted back a brief, “Cool,” followed by “lol.”

This prompted further messages from the old hook-up.

“I’m really happy for you. Saw you on Chris Hayes and that blew my mind.

“I think what you mostly should study is scene construction. Your play is honestly, difficult to read. Or even produce.

“The characters in the playbill are introduced about race and color first? That is very unusual. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but after you do that you’ve got to really grip contrasts on your page.

“In your next work, sharpen your contrasts. Get tight with your dialogue. I know you’ve got it, but sharpen your contrasts like Key and Peele.

“You’ll be astonished by your own work.”

Harris went on to say he’d met the man on OkCupid and the message had turned up out of the blue when he’d logged on Instagram.

Among those to comment was fellow actor Anthony Rapp: “Hard to believe someone could really have that little shame as to think sending you that was in any way ok.”

“Where is their self awareness?” asked comedian and writer Dewayne Perkins. “Where is their couth? Where is their broadway play? Lol. Like the audacity. And Instagram has an unsend button!! God gave him an out and he was like nah, this NEEDS to be said. I’m dying lol.”

Journalist Holly Brockwell commented, “When your next play does well, you’re going to hear from this fool giving themselves the credit.”

Related: How ‘Slave Play’ helped me unpack the racism I’ve experienced dating white guys

Harris, who recently made a Time magazine list of the next 100 most influential people, says it’s not the first time he’s received messages from former acquaintances with surprising reactions to his success.

He went on to share a long message he received from a “cis-hetero white male” former roommate, congratulating him on his play’s success but challenging him to be “more than” a “black queer playwright.” The writer of the message said he believes Harris is limiting himself and can write about more than the “very boring and trite themes of race and sexuality … audiences are ready to move on.”

Harris grew up largely in Martinsville (Virginia) before moving to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

He first came to the attention of audiences with his play Daddy, which helped him secure a place at the Yale School of Drama in 2016. It was while at Yale that he wrote Slave Play, which first appeared off-Broadway to great acclaim in 2018.

The three-act play, which explores sex, power, and intimacy within the context of interracial relationships, transferred to Broadway’s John Golden Theatre last September for a 17-week run.

We have a feeling Harris won’t be arranging to meet up with either of the former acquaintances who messaged him any time soon.

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