‘Jagged Little Pill’ Trans Actors Claim Abuse


Photo: Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images

Before he returns to Broadway next month, Small jagged pill faces criticism over its relationship with the transgender community, and in particular the treatment of trans actors in the series. Producers issued a statement on September 17 by addressing long controversy around the role of Jo – who was clearly a non-binary character in the show’s Boston premieres, but whose gender became ambiguous on Broadway, with the cisgender actor playing the role telling Vulture in 2020 that “Jo was never written other than cis. “In the statement confirming that Jo is a non-binary character, the producers wrote,” We want to recognize the reasonable and deeply felt upheaval around issues of transparency and accountability and Jo’s character, “and outlined a plan to improve the show’s portrayal of trans and non-binary identity. Yet in the days since that statement, trans actors involved in Alanis Morissette’s jukebox musical again criticized their interactions with the transgender community. don’t see the absolute PAIN this causes! I have PTSD !!!!!! ”, Iris Menas, a non-binary actor who was previously Jo’s understudy, tweeted after the producers released their statement. “Know that this is NOT enough,” added zie in another tweet. “We are asking for basic care and we are under pressure. “

Nora Schell, another non-binary actress formerly involved in the production, tweeted that the production “failed me and perpetuated violence against a mentally disturbed black woman” on September 7, after attending the Transgender March on Broadway. Then, a few days after the declaration of production, on September 24, Schell tweeted that they were “intimidated, coerced and forced by several superiors to postpone the CRITICAL AND NECESSARY surgery to remove the growths from my vagina that was making me anemic” when the show premiered.

In a lengthy statement, Schell claimed that they had problems communicating with the staging team around their diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome, and that the stage manager never informed the creative team of the diagnosis. Schell, having already said they would. Schell also said that after they passed out from anemia due to the condition, the manager and a “senior supervisor” urged them to perform that night; they then collapsed on the way to a locker room and were allowed out. Schell said their gynecologist recommended surgery after that day, but they were “effectively forced” to wait for surgery, even though they did. Hello america the day before. The management team also, according to Schell, said they would not be able to take paid time off to recover from the operation. “This is certainly the most alarming, fundamentally false and DANGEROUS incident that I have experienced,” Schell wrote of the event. “I am still grappling with the consequences of waiting for this operation. Schell added later on Twitter that the manager involved was a vice-president of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Representatives for Small jagged pill and Actors’ Equity did not respond to requests for comment, nor did apparent then director Ira Mont. But shortly after Schell’s statement, Tony-nominated actor Celia R. Gooding, who played Frankie, tweeted that the show’s issues with the trans community played into their decision to leave production. “I cannot ignore the evil Shredded did to the trans and non-binary community, including actors onstage, offstage and behind the scenes of the production process, ”Gooding wrote, adding that they will be performing at the Tonys for the last time. “I think it will be in my personal best interest to focus more on a job that I can align myself with emotionally and morally, just like Frankie would.”

The controversy arises as the focus is on Small jagged pill before the Tony Awards on September 26, where the musical is the most nominated and possibly the most awarded show. A few weeks later, on October 21, the show officially returns to Broadway. Actions outlined in the producers’ statement on Jo’s role include hiring a new dramaturgy team that includes transgender members and members of color “to revisit and deepen the storyline,” and promising to “prioritize auditions for ‘actors for the role [of Jo] who are on a gender trip or who understand this experience personally ”in the future. Still, Lauren Patten, who created the role on Broadway, plans to return in the role in October. “I am deeply sorry for the harm I have caused” she wrote on Instagram after the production statement, alongside a video chat with Shakina Nayfack, a trans actor. Patten continued, “It is my deepest hope that Jo is a character who can be claimed and owned by people of many queer identities – butch and masc women, non-binary and genderqueer people, trans men and many more. . ” When Nayfack asked Patten why she hadn’t quit the role, Patten cited the ‘shutdown’ of playing the role again after the COVID-19 shutdown, as well as Jo’s identity not being ‘cut off’ and dried “.

In the days following the production declaration, trans people continued to criticize Patten’s involvement as Jo. “Although she does talk about being a queer center woman, Lauren says very explicitly ‘I’m not trans’ and calls herself ‘a cis person.’ Therefore, in my opinion, there is no justification for her continuing. to play the role of Jo. Period ”, Christian Lewis, theater critic, tweeted. “It discredits much of yesterday’s statement,” they added in another tweet. Gooding also appeared to refer to the casting decision in her own statement, writing that the trans cast members “have a space to exist and perform without transphobia and the ability to. tell their own stories, just like I have done over the years.

Update, Friday September 24 at 6:45 p.m.: The Actors’ Equity Association said it was “deeply concerned” by the revelations in Schell’s statement. The group did not specifically address the claim that the manager was a vice president of Equity, but noted in a statement that it was reviewing everything Schell said. “We recognize that it was a really painful experience that shouldn’t have happened,” the statement said. noted. “An actor in need of emergency surgery should never be prevented from taking medical leave, no matter where the show is in its lifecycle. This is yet another example of why we need to end the ‘Show Must Go On’ mentality and prioritize the well-being of people who do theater. ”

Update, Saturday September 25 at 5:30 p.m .: The main producers of Small jagged pill, Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price made the following statement: “We are deeply troubled by recent statements from a former cast member. We have met with our cast and members of our core creative team today to let them know that we take this matter very seriously and to share. with them the actions we are taking in response. These actions include appointing an outside firm, Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group, to fully investigate this incident and those involved, and we immediately launch an external review of all our policies and procedures with the well-being of all our employees in bothers. Broadway shows are inherently collaborative human endeavors, so there is nothing more important to us than our people. We are committed to continuing to foster a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Update, Sunday September 26 at 1:19 p.m .: The Actors’ Equity Association issued a statement on Sunday announcing that it too “also called for a full and independent investigation into the Small jagged pill workplace. ”The organization, which represents more than 51,000 live theater performers and managers, is in the process of seeking a lawyer to conduct this further investigation.

Update Sunday September 26 at 7:59 p.m .: Lauren Patten won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Starring Role in a Tony musical for her portrayal of Jo. In her acceptance speech, she thanked her “trans and non-binary friends and colleagues who engaged with me in difficult conversations.” Diablo Cody also won the Best Book award, but didn’t directly address the controversy.

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