Joshua Harmon applied for admission to the Juilliard School’s prestigious playwriting program three times. Three times he was told sorry, try again. On his fourth attempt, “Bad Jews” got him in.
No, that’s not a reference to crooked admissions officers. “Bad Jews” is Harmon’s play about relatives battling over a special chai pendant that belonged to their late grandfather.
The play opened for a brief run last fall in The Roundabout Theatre’s 62-seat Black Box venue to rapturous reviews. It’s success prompted a move to the larger Laura Pels Theatre, where it opens October 3.
The fight at the play’s center is between Daphna (Tracee Chimo), the most religiously observant of three grandchildren, and her cousin Liam (Michael Zegen), who doesn’t believe at all and wants the chai to give to his non-Jewish girlfriend.
The verbal sparring gets heated and even physical at one point, often prompting debate from departing audience members. Harmon spoke to The Arty Semite about his “very exciting ride,” the play’s title, and why he likes to stand in the back of the the theater almost every night.
Curt Schleier: You’re a playwriting student with an off-Broadway production under your belt. You’re probably more successful than your teachers.