If you love Twitter, chances are you’re already a fan of R. Eric Thomas. Thanks to his hilarious “Eric Reads the News” column on Elle.com, he boasts over 20,000 followers on the platform, but is quite the playwright as well.
His latest work, “Mrs. Harrison,” made its world premiere at Philadelphia’s Azuka Theatre this month and runs through May 20. A departure from Thomas’ comical writing, “Mrs. Harrison” is more serious in tone, exploring the story of two women at a 10-year college reunion. One is a black, successful playwright who’s a bit insecure and the other is a white, unsuccessful stand-up comedian who’s audacious.
“I feel like every artistic life is about dualities: meekness versus brashness, self-promotion versus humility,” Thomas says. “I’ve been both of these characters at various points in my career, sometimes at the same time. I exhaust myself.”
So why the change in tone for “Mrs. Harrison?”
“I think it’s crucial to the kind of topical humor and commentary that I do on ELLE.com, that I’m able to engage with serious questions and issues,” Thomas says. “Ultimately, I always want to be as funny as possible so that people will like me. Part of that is being deeply interested in what makes things funny, and what makes things true. This, inevitably, leads to questions of ownership, and that’s what sits at the center of ‘Mrs. Harrison.’”
Thomas chose to premiere his play in Philadelphia because he’s a fan of the scene, as well as Azuka in particular.
“Kevin and the whole Azuka team are experts at premiering new work, which involves a lot of care, a lot of conversation, and an understanding that the right play is in there and it needs its first production to get it out,” he says. “Sometimes the play doesn’t emerge until the first preview, and that’s okay, but you need a theater that is prepared for that level of uncertainty and change. I found that in Philly in general and with Azuka, especially. I’m excited to say we found the play and it’s stunning.”
If you go:
Through May 20
Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake
302 Hicks St.