By Michael Paulson and Nicole Herrington
“They are the talk of the theater world: a generation of black playwrights whose fiercely political and formally inventive works are challenging audiences, critics and the culture at large to think about race, and racism, in new ways.
With a mix of fury and outrageous humor, their work conveys concerns that have long challenged this nation, including persistent inequities and the legacy of slavery. Yet they are specifically informed by both the political whiplash of the Obama to Trump transition and the deaths of African-American men and women in encounters with the police.
Many of the plays also confront the white gaze prevalent in the theater world. Two works this season even invited white patrons to relocate, in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fairview,” by leaving their seats and being observed on the stage, and in “What to Send Up When It Goes Down” by leaving the auditorium during the final minutes of a work about black grief.
We spoke with four playwrights, each under 40 and each produced Off Broadway this season, about their plays and the context in which their work has been presented. Jackie Sibblies Drury, 37, is the author of “Fairview,” a comedy-turned-confrontation that challenges the white gaze through which black art is often filtered. Jeremy O. Harris, 29, wrote “Slave Play,” examining fraught race relations by following interracial couples through “antebellum sexual performance therapy.” Antoinette Nwandu, 39, is the author of “Pass Over,” about two black men trapped on a stretch of pavement because they are worried about running afoul of the police. And Jordan E. Cooper, 24, wrote “Ain’t No Mo’, ” about a collective exodus of African-Americans from the United States after the promise of the Obama era is followed by the Trump administration….”
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Feature photo courtesy of The New York Times. From top left; Jackie Sibblies Drury, Jeremy O. Harris, Antoinette Nwandu and Jordan E. CooperCreditCreditPhotographs by Annie Tritt for The New York Times (top left); Andrew White for The New York Times (top right ); and Ike Edeani for The New York Times (bottom row)