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My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

A Conversation About Self-Care with Jeremy O. Harris

Jeremy O. Harris and Miranda Haymon are dear friends and theatremakers who first met back in 2017. On a crisp November day on the Lower East Side of NYC, the two artists spoke about maintaining your mental health while directing work about trauma.

For context,  SLAVE PLAY is a new play written by Jeremy. The three-act play tackles themes of race, sex, power and trauma through three interracial relationships, bringing new meaning to the word ‘process’ and how we understand the lasting effects of slavery in America.

IN THE PENAL COLONY, adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, sees three black men convene on a penal colony, asking what it means for black male bodies to exist: when observed, when consumed, when punished. Miranda directed her adaptation of IN THE PENAL COLONY in July 2019.

Miranda Haymon: We are both creators of difficult, complicated characters that actors have to go through the intensity of performing every night. Do you think about the effect this will have on your actors?

Jeremy O. Harris: When I was an actor I always wanted to do hard work. I felt like a lot of the work I was doing wasn’t hard enough, and that’s because people don’t look at difficult black work as the first thing to do. When they’re doing other work that’s difficult, they don’t imagine us being a part of it. No one was going to cast me in a Beckett play any time soon. The only time black people get cast in Beckett plays is when they’re already Denzel Washington, right?

So I wanted to make spaces for, if not a Beckett landscape, at least a landscape of feeling an interior ornery and complication that I saw in the work of Adrienne Kennedy. I find I’m drawn to actors who’ve felt that same thing in drama school, that same pull. While Joaquina (the lead actress in SLAVE PLAY) has talked to me ad nauseum about the exhaustion her body has gone through, she’s also talked to me ad nauseum about how exhilarating and fulfilling it is to finally have a role that matches her talent. 

Only this ensemble would breathe with each other the way that they do. We do weekly check ins with everyone on our group thread.

M: So what does care look like for your actors? How can they maintain not just their bodies but also their minds, their souls, their spirits while doing eight shows a week? What does that look like for Slave Play? 

J: Slave Play is very specific, and it had to take a lot of different forms. One level of care that’s been there since Yale was the intimacy directors. Someone who would come and be like, ‘Hey guys, the stuff we’re doing on stage that’s intimate is choreography. It’s compartmentalized outside of your personhood and you have agency in and around that. When you’re done with it, you’re over it.’

I think that one of the things that’s always dangerous about theatre is when things bleed too much and there isn’t the articulation that your personal psyche is not actually the psyche of this character. Things get messy for everyone and you go through turmoil inside of you.

I think if this play didn’t have that early support, I would have never gotten to Broadway. Only this ensemble would breathe with each other the way that they do. We do weekly check ins with everyone on our group thread. ‘Hey are you okay?’ ‘Did you get your reiki this week?’ ‘Did you get your massage this week?’ We discuss how to maintain it, but it’s hard. 

Making art is essentially like doing an equation. Sometimes you’re gonna get it right and sometimes you’re gonna get it wrong but at least you’re trying to solve something.

M: [This care] is so important as we’re considering the separation between the work and the self and how for actors it’s their job to jump into the work. Those lines do bleed but a helpful way to deal with that is by acknowledging and seeing both, recognising how we can take care of ourselves but also be able to laugh and go out together outside of the play.

J: I mean, it was hard for me to learn how to separate myself from the work because I put so much of myself into it. I don’t know how that works for you, but to put so much of yourself inside of something that then becomes so public is difficult.

It feels like your actual body, your personhood is being ripped apart without your consent.  I think some people start to conflate both my personhood and this play in these really insane ways.

Making art is essentially like doing an equation. Sometimes you’re gonna get it right and sometimes you’re gonna get it wrong but at least you’re trying to solve something.

M: That’s exactly how I felt. It became very difficult for me to watch the play. I was taking the blame and thinking, ‘well I put them through this.’ I had to learn new ways to be with the work and support them, which meant being there for warm up and backstage as soon as the curtain came down. I decided I couldn’t be in the house because it was hurting me. Audiences had a lot of questions about how the actors were taking care of themselves, too. 

J: In the theatre, people feel this weird thing and I think it’s because the medium is so personal that people feel more licenced to criticize. Theatre makes people feel so much, sometimes they’re like ‘I don’t actually want to feel that.’

M: Do you think in a small way it is actually their own fears of vulnerability? They are being shown them in a way that causes discomfort?

J: Yeah. 

Self care is inside of this weird wall, where you feel like your agency is taken away from you when you start being an artist.

M: If audiences could understand that they, like actors, need to generate methods to take care of themselves, that would be a huge step forward for the industry. How do you take care of yourself during the process? Especially as right now you’re also doing several shows a week in Black Exhibition at The Bushwick Starr. 

J: Black Exhibition is a great example of the ways in which I learned to take care of myself that I think might surprise some people. What I realized is that my self care is inside of this weird wall, where you feel like your agency is taken away from you when you start being an artist. Even though you have agency in some other ways, like getting a restaurant reservation easier or paying your rent on time.

M: Your time doesn’t become your own anymore. It becomes somebody else’s.

J: Exactly.

M:  I feel like, where has my time gone? It’s not mine anymore. 

J: Yeah and the expectations get so much bigger. It’s something that I decided to reject, and one of the ways that I rejected it was writing more for me. The only expectation just has to be to finish. I realized that’s what I had to do for self care. I had to make a practice of not looking at the mountain of expectation but walking through the foothills of things I can achieve. You know what I mean?

M: I totally know what you mean. I’ve also found that recently I’ve started to find new creative outlets. I love that you just mentioned poetry.  I’m taking a floral design class, I want to do print making, I started a Depop account so I could start putting together little pieces and taking photos. I bought a polaroid camera! I’m also finding that I have to find new ways to be creative that are just for me. 

J: Yes!

M: And not just by using my brain or my computer but also my hands and genuinely finding new ways to be. We have to find new ways to be creative especially as when you’re an artist, your creativity and your creative well is your token. 

J: Yeah and how do you refill it? Because I don’t buy this idea that there’s a limited amount you have inside of you.  I was like ‘No, mine’s going to last forever!’ I’m going to give it whatever juice Adrienne Kennedy has, whatever juice Caryl Churchill has and I’m going to be popping them out for a while. I do think if you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again you’ll run out of that. Whatever it is.

M: You have to begin to establish those other creative outlets early, the things that are exercising a different part of your brain or a different part of your body. 

J: Yes!

M: And feed them as you would your main source of creative energy. Otherwise that’s burnout. I feel like we talk about burnout in so many ways but burnout is also, ‘Wow I have this plant that I’ve been nourishing’—that for me is theatre. I will overwater it so much that I won’t be able to salvage it. To me that’s also a kind of burnout that we are not talking about. So let me plant some other seeds. Let me nurture some other parts of my creativity so that way I’m also not putting all my eggs in one basket. 

J: I think another metaphor inside of it is being able to recognize, ‘Wow this tree that I’ve been watering has gotten really big because it’s literally been taking over my space. So maybe I should take this thing outside, plant it and take off a little trimming and put it in this pot.’ Which is what doing Black Exhibition felt like. It felt like Broadway and Slave Play had just sort of taken over my entire theatrical space and my creative space so deeply. To cut a trimming from it, plant that in a little pot and bring that inside of my house and water something new. That’s what I’m watering right now because I don’t know what kind of super grow got put into the Slave Play plant but it really took off.

M: There’s a bounty of creative energy within all of us and another means of self care is saying “Actually I’m going to put this one to the side” and that is okay.

That is more than okay.


  • Miranda Haymon is a writer, director and producer based in Brooklyn. They have developed work with the Roundabout Theater Company, The Public, Manhattan Theater Club, NYTW, New Georges, Clubbed Thumb, Fault Line Theater and more. Miranda is an aspiring florist, an avid player of Settlers of Catan and pretty good at driving stick shift. See more at

    Photo Credit: Jejomar Ysit

  • Araba Ankuna

    Araba Ankuma is a visual storyteller currently based in Brooklyn, NYC. Araba was educated in the art of image-making and perception while studying within the University of Pennsylvania’s unique Visual Studies program. In January 2017, she founded ASA Productions LLC., dedicated to the production of narrative-based visual content created by artists of color.

    Photo Credit: Araba Ankuna

  • Sophia Jennings

    Sophia Jennings is the Head of Content at I Weigh. Prior to I Weigh, she was the Creative Executive at The Creative Studio, a production company founded by Scooter Braun Projects and BBH LA. Her writing has been published by Rolling Stone, MTV, The Coveteur, and numerous other publications.

    Photo Credit: Lily Vetch