Acclaimed ‘Slave Play’ Headed To Broadway; Jake Gyllenhaal Company Among Producers

slave play
'Slave Play', New York Theatre Workshop Joan Marcus

Jeremy O. HarrisSlave Play landed on various critics’ best-of lists after its Off Broadway production last December, and now the incendiary and brutally funny comedy-drama about race, sexual fetishes and the undying legacy of American slavery, is headed to Broadway.

With Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nine Stories production company as one of the producers, Slave Play, directed by Robert O’Hara, will begin previews of a 17-week engagement on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Golden Theatre, with an opening night set for Sunday, Oct. 6.

Casting was not announced.

The Broadway production was announced by producers Greg Nobile and Jana Shea of Seaview Productions; Troy Carter; Level Forward; and Nine Stories, founded by Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker to develop and produce new works for theater, film and television. Nine Stories is a producer of Broadway’s upcoming Sea Wall/A Life starring Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge; performances begin July 26 at the Hudson Theatre. As with Slave Play, Sea Wall/A Life had a successful Off Broadway run last year. (Read Deadline’s interview with Sturridge about the play here).

Slave Play is set on what initially appears to be an old Deep South slave plantation, opening with scenes of sexually charged encounters involving race, gender and power. As the scenarios play out, the audience becomes increasingly aware that, as the production company says, “nothing is as it seems.” The scenarios are, in fact, therapeutic workshops for modern-day interracial couples.

Jeremy O. Harris  'Slave Play'
Jeremy O. Harris Quil Lemons

In a statement today, the playwright said, “During my very short time being a professional writer, the world I thought I’d inhabit was one at odds with a commercial theatrical landscape; so to see that this play, Slave Play, that interrogates the traumas Americans have inherited from the legacy of chattel slavery and colonization has a place in the canon of work that has made its way to Broadway is both exhilarating and humbling. It also articulates that the leaps the community made in the past Broadway season might not have been a fad but the beginning of a new moment for the theater to once again attempt to represent discursive American theatrical expression not situated solely within the imaginaries of cis white men, but the imaginaries of all Americans.”

O’Hara, the director, said, “I’m thrilled as a black queer artist to be collaborating with another black queer artist on what will be both of our Broadway debuts. I think the idea that I can say that openly and proudly is rather profound given the history of our country and of the American theater, but more specifically Broadway which has had and continues to have a general lack of diversity and diverse stories. I feel that Jeremy is joined today by a whole host of exciting young artists who are telling stories outside the main stem which can now hopefully be presented on the main stem. As the margin slowly becomes the center, I believe a cavalcade of voices one would never expect to be heard on Broadway can be and should be demanded. Slave Play is a complex, challenging and exhilarating piece of work and I look forward to presenting it this fall on Broadway.”

The creative team for the Broadway production includes Clint Ramos (scenic design), Dede Ayite (costume design), Jiyoun Chang (lighting design) and Lindsay Jones (sound design and original music). And in a reprise of her role with Broadway’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Claire Warden will serve as Slave Play’s intimacy and fight director. Mark Shacket serves as Executive Producer.

Harris is represented by ICM, managed by ELIA, and attorney André Des Rochers of Granderson Des Rochers, LLP.

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