Jeremy O. Harris Wrote His Own Daddy Into Existence
“It ended up working in this meta way,” says the 29-year-old playwright. Photographed by Robert Nethery.
Photograph by Robert Nethery.
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Last winter, there seemed to be never fewer than three question marks associated with the question, “Have you seen Slave Play yet???” So urgent did its off-Broadway run feel, so seismic was its pivotal plot reveal at the end of Act I. Slave Play may have been Jeremy O. Harris’ first work to be staged in New York, but it was not the first full play the 29-year-old Yale School of Drama student had written. That would be “Daddy”, which opens at The New Group and Vineyard Theater on March 5 in a Danya Taymor–directed production. “For a long time, I thought “Daddy” would be the play that opened doors for me...but it never get produced,” Harris says. “I used to say, ‘“Daddy” got me into Yale,’ or ‘“Daddy” got me into MacDowell Colony,’ because I don’t have nepotism. I had to write my own daddy into existence, and it ended up working in this meta way.” (“I love titles,” Harris says, in case that’s not already clear.)
“Daddy” centers on a sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship between a white collector and a black artist that is, in Harris’ description, “set in the hills of Bel Air to the tune of George Michael’s ‘Father Figure.’” The debut cast includes Hari Nef, Tommy Dorfman, Ronald Peet (whom Harris describes as “a complete and utter star”), and Alan Cumming in the titular role; there is also a gospel choir and a set that includes a pool onstage. Simply put, Harris says, “I’m really freaking out.” So where does an artist whose success has been heaped on so swiftly set his sights now? Somewhere very high. As “Daddy” heads into previews this month, Harris will be collaborating with a New York fashion designer for their fall/winter 2019 runway show, and he will act in another play later this year. But he deflects questions about a transfer for Slave Play: “I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a Broadway run for any of my plays.”
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