‘Slave Play’ Back On Track For Los Angeles After Venue Pledges Commitment To Address Gender Imbalance

Slave Play will arrive in Los Angeles after all. Playwright Jeremy O. Harris announced last night that his Tony-nominated comedy-drama will remain on the line-up at Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum in light of commitments made by the venue to expand opportunities there for women, trans and non-binary artists.

“So after 1 1/2 weeks of Zooms and phone calls w artistic staff at @CTGLA as well as my team on Slave Play, LA community members, multiple female mentors I’m excited to say that  @SlavePlayBway will stay on the season for 2022,” Harris tweeted. The development, he said, came after “multiple commitments” were made by CTG.

Harris announced last week that he intended to remove Slave Play from its Feb. 9-March 13, 2022, West Coast premiere spot on the Taper’s season line-up due to the season’s absence of female playwrights. (Slave Play had originally been scheduled for a staging last season but was postponed due to the pandemic shutdown.)

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Jeremy O. Harris Announces Plan To Pull 'Slave Play' L.A. Run Over Scarcity Of Female Playwrights

In a statement released yesterday by CTG leadership, the non-profit arts performance center addressed the situation and steps it was taking to resolve the issues. “We acknowledge that our 21/22 season was heavily imbalanced when it came to gender,” said the statement signed by the center’s artistic team of  Luis Alfaro, Lindsay Allbaugh, Tyrone Davis, Neel Keller and Kelley Kirkpatrick. “Women-identified voices are needed on our stages in every season. As an organization that is actively working towards being anti-racist and inclusive, we take responsibility for the lack of intersectionality of social identities and experiences on our stages.”

Included in the center’s plans to rectify the shortcomings, the full Taper 2022-2023 season will feature “entirely women-identifying or non-binary playwrights.” The season also will be “a BIPOC majority season.”

At the center’s Kirk Douglas Theatre venue, the focus of the 2022-2023 season will be on “women-identifying or non-binary and BIPOC playwrights.”

In addition to the on-stage plans, CTG announced expanded New Play Development programs to “further our commitment to gender and racial equity.” The center said it has been working on an initiative to commission six new plays by Black women-identifying or non-binary playwrights in addition to other developmental programs including a current writer’s cohort comprised of 10 women-identifying, majority BIPOC playwrights. CTG said that 11 of its 16 current commissions are with women-identifying playwrights, and 11 are also BIPOC playwrights.

“In the spirit of this commitment to transparency, we have shared these in-the-works plans with members of our community, including Jeremy O. Harris,” CTG said. “Jeremy has faith in the necessary measures we are taking and as a result of these conversations, Slave Play remains the opening production of our upcoming Taper season.”

Harris said in his announcement yesterday that he had indeed been prepared to follow through with his intention to pull the play. “I want it to be very clear that until 4 PM today I was VERY ready to stand by my decision to walk away from CTG if the staff didn’t come back ready for tangible change as they said they were,” he tweeted. “Much of this wouldn’t have happened in this way without both the bravery of my entire team to stand with the hundreds of women in our community calling for necessary, radical changes. Having an artistic staff that wasn’t defensive but ready to work also helped.”

Read Harris’ series of tweets below, followed by the full CTG statement.

Letter from Center Theatre Group’s Artistic Team
Published on Tuesday, October 12, 2021:

To our artists, audience, colleagues, and partners,

We want to have a conversation with you.

We recently announced Center Theatre Group’s first Taper and Douglas seasons after a two-year Pandemic shut down. We acknowledge that our 21/22 season was heavily imbalanced when it came to gender. Women-identified voices are needed on our stages in every season. As an organization that is actively working towards being anti-racist and inclusive, we take responsibility for the lack of intersectionality of social identities and experiences on our stages.

We have been reminded by our community this past week about the great need for transparency. We are an organization in the midst of pandemic recovery and at the start of an Artistic Leadership transition; this is a moment of great change and communication is incredibly important. The 22/23 season planning process began over a year ago, and we had already been working hard to make sure our programming was of the highest artistic caliber and has been informed by our commitment to center BIPOC voices and give more production slots to women-identifying and non-binary playwrights.

As the season is shaping up, we are excited about our plan to schedule the full Taper 22/23 Season next year with entirely women-identifying or non-binary playwrights and to also have it be a BIPOC majority season. We are focusing our Douglas 22/23 season on majority women-identifying or non-binary and BIPOC playwrights. We will continue our commitment to uplifting/building gender and racial equity within our production directors and artistic teams.

In addition to the work that will appear on our stages, our expanded New Play Development programs also further our commitment to gender and racial equity. We have been preparing to announce a new chapter for our Not a Moment, But a Movement initiative in which we will be commissioning six new plays by Black women-identifying or non-binary playwrights. This adds to our other current developmental programs including the current writer’s cohort which is comprised of 10 women-identifying, majority BIPOC playwrights, and 11 of our 16 current commissions are with women-identifying playwrights, 11 are also BIPOC playwrights.

In the spirit of this commitment to transparency, we have shared these in-the-works plans with members of our community, including Jeremy O. Harris. Jeremy has faith in the necessary measures we are taking and as a result of these conversations, Slave Play remains the opening production of our upcoming Taper season.

Moving forward, a new Artistic Director(s) will program our future seasons. We are seeking leadership that shares our values and commitments to change.

We are grateful to the women-identified playwrights and other members of our community who made it clear that we need to better communicate our planning intentions. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you. We are unwavering in our commitment to cutting edge art and diversity of all perspectives, the best possible experience on our stages.

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