Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill accused of ‘harming trans and non-binary communities’
Broadway’s Alanis Morissette jukebox musical, Jagged Little Pill, is facing damning allegations of causing “harm to the trans and non-binary” communities.
Antonio Cipriano became the latest star to exit Jagged Little Pill on Sunday (26 September), announcing that he is leaving the production because he can’t overlook the treatment his cast members have endured throughout the years.
“I have to acknowledge the harm that many trans + non-binary, and all marginalised folk, onstage cast members and of have endured throughout the years,” Cipriano wrote . “Broadway should be a safe space for everyone to create and experience art.”
He also acknowledged his “privilege” and took responsibility “for being part of the harm caused”.
Actor Celia Rose Gooding also bid farewell to the show and her role as Mary Frances “Frankie” Healy on the same day, calling out the producer’s behaviour towards its trans and non-binary cast members.
She spoke ahead of a cast Tony Awards performance, something she said had been a “lifelong dream of mine”.
However, she said that she didn’t want the performance to distract from the “fact that Broadway has a lot more work to do to be the safe, equitable space that artists of all walks of life deserve”.
“I cannot ignore the harm Jagged has done to the trans and non-binary community, including cast members on stage, off stage and behind the scenes in the production-making process,” Gooding wrote.
“They are owed a space to exist and perform free of transphobia, and the opportunity to tell their own stories, just as I have over the years.”
— celia r. gooding (@celiargooding) September 24, 2021
Jagged Little Pill won two Tony Awards on Sunday, but has become embroiled in controversy in recent days.
On Friday, (24 September), non-binary actor and singer Nora Schell accused “higher ups” on the production of intimidation and coercion, writing on Twitter that they were “heavily pressured and eventually asked to wait to get necessary surgery to remove polyps from my vagina”.
Schell claimed they were “effectively coerced to go against my gynaecologist’s medical advice” and waited “over a month” to get surgery which a medical professional “told me I needed immediately”.
Even on the day before their surgery, on which they had to fast, they performed on Good Morning America – but was forced to pull out of a preview show that night because they weren’t “strong enough”.
“After surgery, I was intimidated by company management,” Schell wrote. “The validity of my recovery period was diminished and dismissed.”
During previews for the Broadway run of JAGGED LITTLE PILL I was intimidated, coerced and forced by multiple higher ups to put off CRITICAL AND NECESSARY surgery to remove growths from my vagina that were making me anemic. Surgery my doctor told me was urgent. READ BELOW: pic.twitter.com/bqM4OOzHa3
— Nora Schell (@noritachiquita) September 24, 2021
They continued: “I was told ‘I need to work to get paid’ and that ‘I can’t expect to be paid when taking personal days’.”
Schell noted that this is “certainly not an exhaustive account of my experiences” but was “certainly the most alarming”.
The producers of Jagged Little Pill and the Actors’ Equity Association have separately launched investigations into the allegations of workplace mistreatment on the production.
Lead producers Vivek J Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price released a joint statement on Twitter, saying they were “deeply troubled by the recent claims” made by a former cast member and were taking “this matter very seriously”.
The statement said that an external firm had been appointed to “conduct a comprehensive investigation of this incident and the individuals involved”.
The producers added they were also “launching an external review of all our policies and procedures with the wellbeing of all our employees in mind”.
The Actors’ Equity Association said the union would commission a “thorough, independent investigation of the Jagged Little Pill”, Deadline reported.
According to Deadline, Jagged Little Pill follows the year in the life of a seemingly perfect family that confront social and personal issues including gender identity, inclusion and acceptance.
The show has previously been at the centre of controversy over the character of Jo Taylor, who was written as non-binary (but played by a cis woman, Lauren Patten) during an initial run in Boston, but was depicted as a cisgender gay female when the show transferred to Broadway.
Producers initially denied Jo was non-binary, but later apologised for erasing “many of the lines that signalled Jo as gender non-conforming”.
“Compounding our mistake, we then stated publicly and categorically that Jo was never written or conceived as non-binary,” a statement continued. “That discounted and dismissed what people saw and felt in this character’s journey. We should not have done that.”
Patten, who plays Jo on Broadway, won a Tony Award for her role on Sunday and thanked her “trans and non-binary friends and colleagues who have engaged with me in difficult conversations, that have joined me in dialogue about my character Jo”.
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The speech was poorly received, with many suggested that rejecting the award, or the role entirely, would have shown true allyship.
Before the Tony Awards, Patten shared a conversation she had with trans actress and activist Shakina Nayfack on Instagram.
Patten said she was “profoundly sorry for the harm I caused” and was “thankful” to Nayfack, friends and colleagues who held her accountable.
“It is my deepest hope for Jo to be a character that can be claimed and owned by folks of many queer identities — butch and masc women, nonbinary and genderqueer folks, trans men, and many more,” Patton wrote. “Theatre has the power and the potential to be expansive, and I hope that Jo can be a representation of that moving forward.”