Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris and New York Theatre Workshop – the Off Broadway company where he developed the acclaimed work – announced today the establishment of two $50,000 commissions for new theatrical works, keeping a pledge the author made when he signed a two-year overall deal with HBO last March.
The inaugural Golden & Ruth Harris Commission, named by Harris after his grandparents, will be awarded this year to “two generative artists who are Black womxn: one of whom is an artist who has yet to have an Off Broadway New York production as a generative artist, and one of whom is an artist who made a significant impact early in their artistic lives but has not had adequate support of late.”
An array of nominators will make recommendations over the next several months, with selected nominees then submitting proposals to an independent panel of artists. Finalists will then be submitted to Harris and NYTW for selection of the recipients.
“At the core of my practice is the belief that the work of being a playwright is in community building,” Harris said in a statement. “My grandparents, Golden and Ruth, always modeled charity and generosity within their community. Moreover, their generosity to me is the only reason I was able to write my first plays.
“Hopefully this commission can do the same for other artists at the theatre that gave me my first significant opportunities in the American theatre. In this moment of global unrest and unprecedented stasis for world theatre, my hope is that this can model for our community and our government a method to radically invest in the future of our medium.”
NYTW Artistic Director James C. Nicola said, “Jeremy is an artist, a spirit, unlike any other. Not only is he ablaze with imagination and inspiration in the convention-shattering work he makes himself, but he is also equally compelled to reinvent the art form. In this new world that he is commanding to materialize, the fight for the common good of the artists that dwell there is at the very core of his efforts. With this initiative he has created, he enlists NYTW to become his partner in not just generously supporting theater-makers, but also in building a new paradigm of theater itself.”
The collaborative commission from the playwright and the theater company is designed to provide creators at least some relief from the demands of raising income.
In March, when Harris’ TV pact was announced, HBO confirmed that the deal included a discretionary fund that Harris could use for new theatrical projects.
“When I signed the contract w/@HBO,” Harris tweeted today, “I wanted to make a commission that was bigger than any other I had seen…one for an artist like I had been a yr before (never produced in NYC) and one who was late career. I named them after my grandparents.”