Slave Play: Is the MacGregor Plantation Real?

Jeremy O. Harris’ Tony Award-nominated drama ‘Slave Play’ is set in the MacGregor Plantation, a cotton plantation located somewhere near pre-Civil War Richmond, Virginia. The first act of the play explores the relationship dynamics of varying inhabitants of the plantation. In HBO’s ‘Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play.,’ which dives into the creative process behind the play, the MacGregor Plantation is frequently mentioned as the documentary film chronicles the reading of the play by a group of actors. The plantation is an integral part of the purpose of the drama and Jeremy’s vision. However, the admirers of the work will not be able to visit the property in real life.

The Fictional MacGregor Plantation’s Significance

MacGregor Plantation does not exist in reality. Having said that, the property is not different from any plantation that existed before the Civil War and housed black slaves. The plantation can be seen as a synecdoche used to place the entire history of slavery in the narrative of the play. Jeremy O. Harris conceived ‘Slave Play’ to examine the connection between slavery and contemporary times. The playwright wanted to show that it continues to exist irrespective of its abolition more than a century ago.

“I grew up in the South in a real way. And when I came north, to Chicago specifically, I had a lot of friends that didn’t have this relationship to the history of slavery that I felt like I carried around with me,” Jeremy told Town & Country. “They felt like it was something that was really far away, and I felt like it was something that was really close. So that was always on the back of my mind,” he added. Considering this particular vision, seemingly nothing represents slavery more than a plantation.

The history of the plantation complexes in the Southern United States is also the history of slavery. Jeremy brought back the latter in his productions of the play by placing the narrative on a cotton plantation. Even if the characters are far removed from the chains of slavery, they remain connected to its traumas and toxicities by being at a plantation. The site triggers what each character inherited from their ancestors, making them act like their counterparts who lived centuries ago. Jeremy wrote ‘Slave Play’ with the understanding that his country hasn’t changed drastically since the abolition of slavery.

As the narrative explores how slavery exists without chains in the modern day, its plantation setting represents the entire United States. The play establishes that traces of slavery are part of individuals living across the country, even in their ordinary households. According to the narrative, this condemnable system of personal ownership, which was once present only in plantations like MacGregor Plantation, now exists in contemporary places. That can be why the events in the play initially occur at MacGregor Plantation, only for the setting to gradually transition into a modern relationship therapy space, where slavery is least expected to be present.

Read More: Slave Play: Who Plays Whom? Where Are the Actors Now?