Rihanna Texted Jeremy O. Harris During His Broadway Show, Slave Play

-So, first of all, we have
something in common, which is we both have an
enduring admiration for Rihanna. You actually use a Rihanna
song in your show. Is this something that you had
always thought you wanted, or was it after you actually saw
it on its feet you were like, “Oh, I know what will match
with this well?” -Well, I mean, the thing was — So Rihanna is so
a part of me. I’m not —
not to make this, like, person who’s so not inside
of my body a person that’s
inside of my body, but she lives inside of me.
-Okay, gotcha. -Like, she actually does.
-So if we need her — -Yeah, if you need her,
I can actually, like, summon her to the space now. I mean, where do you think
I got the jacket? But the thing is,
when the play came to me, it, like, hit me like
a bolt of lightning. And the first thing that was
playing in my mind was “Work.” And that’s because — and this
is kind of a spoiler. But, like, “Work” is a song
that played in my mind for three years straight. So I decided that it should
play in the mind of the lead character’s
for three years straight. -Gotcha.
It’s great that you have it. And then she came and saw
the show. -She did.
-And that must have been, for you, as any creator of art, when someone you respect
comes to see it. She was texting
during the show, which some people were
critical of, but it turns out that she was
texting you during the show. -Yes. Yes. -That must have just
been wonderful. -It both was and wasn’t,
for my inbox. -Okay. -On the next day
after I said she did that. -Oh, gotcha.
-A lot of people got very up in arms about the fact
that I didn’t, like, say, like, “No! Rihanna, no!”
[ Laughter ] All these people were like,
“You know when Lin-Manuel saw Madonna texting during
‘Hamilton,’ he told her she could not come backstage.” And I was like,
“Yeah, I’m not Lin. [ Laughter ] I don’t have ‘Hamilton’ money.” Also — also, Rihanna was,
like, texting me that she loved the show. She also texted me some very
funny things… -Okay. -About the show that just are
going to live with me forever. -Yeah. -So I was just —
you know, again, there — there’s so many bigger issues
with theater as far as like,
who’s there, how they’re there, what they’re doing when they’re
there, that, like, for me, Rihanna texting was, like,
the least of my worries when it came to, like, theater. Because my mom texts every time
she sees my play. I don’t know what to do
about that. So I’m not going to — like,
I would have to yell at my mom and tell her she couldn’t come
backstage at my play if I was, like, going to have
a hard line on texting in the theater. -You’ve actually been very
outspoken about what you were talking about,
with the bigger issues in the play because, you know,
it does seem like, in a good way, there’s more
representation on stage. But still,
Broadway audiences are — there’s a lack of
diversity there. You’ve tried very hard to bring
diversity into the seats as well. Can you talk about the things
you wanted to do, and even with “Slave Play,” just the affordability
of tickets, things like that? -Yeah, I mean, so one of
the things I told all the producers
on “Slave Play” was that no one wants to walk around
being like, “Hey, I got really rich
producing ‘Slave Play’ on Broadway.”
-Right. -Least of all when you’re
a white producer, right? -Right.
-You don’t want to be like, “I made so much money doing
‘Slave Play’ on Broadway.” [ Laughter ]
Which is psychotic. So I was like, “Can we
make sure that we, like, are making it so
that people like me can actually
see a play on Broadway?” Because I — and this is
a very real thing. I did not see a play on Broadway
until four years ago, and that was Lucas Hnath’s “Doll’s House, Part 2” —
on Broadway with a free ticket that I got from a friend
at Juilliard. So, and, like, one of the
biggest things was that I was a theater maker
who wanted to do theater, wanted to make theater,
and I worked four jobs and, like, also asked my mom
to help me pay for my rent to, like — in order
to afford to have some piecemeal version of it. So I could never afford, like,
a $200 ticket. And most of the major plays
on Broadway right now have, like, an average ticket price
of $110. -Right.
-And that’s, like, you know, if anything, like a huge portion
of your rent, if not your light bill
for the month. So I wanted to make sure that,
like, there were 10,000 tickets available for $39,
that anytime someone came at 9:30 a.m. they could get
a rush ticket for $39, and that we could give as many
free tickets away to kids as possible during,
like, our previews. Which we did, which was amazing. -And was it —
[ Cheers and applause ] As a creator of art,
it must have been nice to be able to give that to them. And obviously, you know,
you’re making something that you want people
from all walks of life to see. -Yeah.
-So it must be nice to have all walks of life
in the theater. -The theater has to be full
of people who look like me, in not just my skin color
but my age, my, like, sexual identity,
all these things. And price is a big thing that
prohibits them from coming. Not to mention the fact that,
like, you know, most people who don’t look
white, wealthy, and, like, over 60, have never been invited
to the theater. And that’s because in the ’70s, all of the major
regional theaters created subscription programs for, like, young, like,
cool people who wanted to see theater. So, like, theaters, like,
the Roundabout had, like, programs where if you were
a young couple you would buy, like, a $40 membership,
and you’d be able to see theater all year long. But they only, like programmed
those plays for that audience. Because they were like,
“We have it. We have, like, all these
people.” But that audience is much older and they’re dedicated
theater-goers. But that same invitation hasn’t
been made for my generation. -Yeah.
-So I was like, “How can we — You can’t invite someone to your
house for a dinner party and, like, expect them to make
a four-course meal.” Which is what I feel spending
$100 on a play is like — But you do say, like, “Will you
bring a bottle of wine?” -Right.
-And that’s a $39 commitment. -You also — this is very nice,
you tweeted some scams. You even called them scams,
of ways to see theater. This was nice — “I haven’t used
since I was an undergrad. You go to the box office
and confidently say your name when they ask. When they don’t see your name,
just say, ‘Ex-board member invited
my dad and I. They will find a ticket.'”
[ Laughter ] -I mean, I hate to say this,
but I scammed a lot of theaters
in California… -Yeah.
-…and New York and Chicago in my, like,
rush to want to see theater in my early 20s. -This is another one I like —
“Text a rich friend, ‘Oh, my God,
have you heard about this insane show “Slave Play”?
Everyone’s saying it’s amazing.’ Then send them a link
and they will say, ‘Should we go?’, and then
they will buy the tickets.” -Yes.
[ Laughter, applause ] -One, I hope people do that,
and, two, I think it’s great that people should get in there,
and they should see the play, and it’s worth $39. It is worth all the other ticket
prices as well, and — -Listen, I’m looking
at you right now. -Yeah.
-Because you said you think people should text
their rich friends. -Yeah.
-You are rich. -Oh, yeah.
[ Laughter ] -I’m in this space.
-Yeah. -If someone tweets you tonight that they want to see
“Slave Play,” will you buy them a ticket?
-Yeah. -You will?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah. [ Cheers and applause ]
-Okay. Okay. I didn’t plan this scam. -Okay, great.
-This is a scam. -I can’t believe
I brought up the scams and then you scammed me!
-Yes. [ Laughter ]
-So I can’t sit here now and be like, “I didn’t know
he was a scammer.” There are tweets! Argh! It would be my honor.
-Okay, great. Tweet at —
-Let’s say the first 10 people to tweet me about this, I will get tickets
to “Slave Play.” -Will you get them premium
tickets? [ Cheers and applause ] -Yeah.
-You will? -I’ll give the first 10 people
to — [ Cheering continues ] You know what? What an honor
to be played by you, sir. Jeremy O. Harris, everybody.


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