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Unconcerned With Niceties, Aleshea Harris Rages Toward Success

The award-winning “Is God Is” playwright has drawn acclaim for, in her words, ‘a nuanced exploration of black female anger’

by LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES
MAY 25, 2018

‘It’s really murderous, it’s really dark,’ Aleshea Harris tells the Voice of the revenge play that won her an Obie award. DOLLY FAIBYSHEV FOR THE VILLAGE VOICE

The playwright Aleshea Harris knows the history. She understands the racism that fuels the self-protective impulse behind respectability politics — the idea that if members of a marginalized group behave impeccably, they won’t be oppressed.

She has a couple of problems with that strategy, though. First, it doesn’t work. Second, as a black artist, she needs to depict the complex humanity of black people, not a tidied-up version.

“I can’t be so concerned with what racist white people will think about my work that I can’t make my work,” she said the other day over a matcha latte in a Hell’s Kitchen café. “Let someone else play the best-behaved black person on the planet. I can’t do that. I’m fully human, I’m fucked-up in many ways, and I want to talk about that.”

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