Aleshea Harris

Aleshea Harris’s meticulous pageantries of brutal injustice vibrate with rage, grief, hope, and truth, breathing life into ancient forms and indelibly making seen those who were unseen.

Aleshea Harris is an American playwright, performer, and screenwriter. Her debut play Is God Is won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award in 2016. Critic Jeffrey Fleishman has described Harris as “a playwright in fierce struggle with America.” Is God Is and its follow-up, What to Send Up When It Goes Down (2018), confront the physical and psychological wounds of misogyny and racism, respectively. In the latter play, which Harris calls a “play-pageant-ritual response to anti-blackness,” a character tells the audience: “I looked down and realized the joke was on me, literally, all over me and in me.” Calling upon fairy tales and the novels of Toni Morrison, Greek myth and police reports, Harris’s work centers black bodies, celebrating them in their full spectrum of beauty and complexity: Love, rage, delight, recollection, speculation, and defiance all have a place in her character’s lives. A two-time finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2020, 2018), a two-time MacDowell Fellow (2019, 2016), a winner of the Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting (2019) and a winner of the Obie Award for Playwriting (2018), Harris lives in Los Angeles and performs her work around the world.

To say that I am moved and astonished that nominators, jurors, and judges I had no contact with read my work and found it worthy of this prize would be an understatement. This moment is so significant; it has strengthened my belief in the value of meticulousness and the potential of the stories I hope to tell. ALESHEA HARRIS