A London play is inviting an “all-Black identifying audience” to two upcoming showings in a decision that the playwright has claimed is intended to open up the performance to groups that do not traditionally feel welcome in a theater setting

“In other circles it would be illegal and racial discrimination,” a senior Tory Member of Parliament told the Daily Mail. “I don’t understand why this isn’t.” 

The playwright, Jeremy O. Harris, told BBC Sounds that he was “so excited” to open up ticket sales only to people who identify as Black on July 17 and September 17, according to the report. “[I]t is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say ‘you’re invited’. Specifically you,'” Harris said. 

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This isn’t the first time this has occurred. According to a website about the “BLACK OUT” initiative begun by Harris after he wrote “Slave Play,” it “is the purposeful creation of an environment in which an all-Black-identifying audience can experience and discuss an event in the performing arts, film, athletic, and cultural spaces – free from the White gaze.”

“A concept birthed by Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris, the inaugural BLACK OUT night took place on September 18, 2019. For the first time in history, all 804 seats of Broadway’s Golden Theatre were occupied by Black-identifying audience members in communion, celebration, and recognition of Broadway’s rich, diverse, and fraught history of Black work.”

“One of the things we have to remember is that people have to be radically invited into a space to know that they belong there and in most places in the West, poor people and Black people have been told that they do not belong inside the theater,” Harris said. 

The show in London stars Kit Harington, known for portraying Jon Snow on the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

The playwright, who said he was raised in a “working-class environment,” argued that it was an important step to take.

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“There are a litany of places in our country that are generally only inhabited by White people, and nobody is questioning that, and nobody is saying that by inviting Black audiences here you are uninvited,” Harris said when asked if he felt at all uncomfortable about other racial groups not being allowed on those nights. 

“The idea of a Black Out night is to say this is a night that we are specifically inviting Black people to fill up the space, to feel safe with a lot of other Black people in a place where they often do not feel safe,” Harris said. He also explained that there was a clear difference between “culturally White audiences and Black audiences” in how they respond to plays. 

“Let’s not act that we do not know that culturally White audiences and Black audiences respond to things differently,” he said.