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Lauren Patten called attention to the conversations around Jagged Little Pill‘s gender non-conforming representation, thanking her nonbinary and trans colleagues while accepting the award for best featured actress in a musical at Sunday’s 74th Tony Awards.
“It is such a joy to finally be able to celebrate all of these phenomenal artists in this room after this long, long pause. It is also a strange time for awards. We are in the middle of a reckoning in our industry. And first and foremost I want to thank my trans and nonbinary friends and colleagues who have engaged with me in difficult conversations, that have joined me in dialogue about my character Jo,” Patten said.
“I believe that the future for the change we need to see on Broadway comes from these kinds of conversations that are full of honesty and empathy and respect for our shared humanity. And I am so excited to see the action that comes from them, and to see where that leads our future as theatre artists in this country,” she concluded.
Patten’s comments follow the news that the show’s lead producers, Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price, producers had hired the external firm Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group to investigate allegations made by former cast members, including nonbinary actor Nora Schell, who alleged in a social media post mistreatment by stage management and other members of the show’s creative leadership in regards to their health care. The producers also announced they are immediately launching an external review of the show’s policies and procedures.
That followed a lengthy Sept. 17 statement to the production’s website and social media, acknowledging missteps in how they publicly spoke about and identified Patton’s character Jo, a lovestruck teen dealing with religious parents, their sexuality and a souring relationship while also going on their own gender journey, which has no confirmed outcome in the show. The letter also outlined significant changes to the productions on an off-stage approach to trans and nonbinary identities.
A day after the statement, Patten shared a video conversation with Shakina Nayfack, trans writer, actress and activist, to increase transparency around the conversations that were being had about Jo, and to be accountable for harm resulting from the erasure of Jo’s gender journey. Patten linked her comments to a broader conversation on Broadway about transparency and the production changes that have occurred in regards to representation, particularly over the last year.
“The truth is that I did not know as much as I should and stepping into something that I did know would resonate with a lot of folks — a lot of queer folks and a lot of trans folks,” Patten said. “I should have known more how to talk about it. I should have known how to exactly as you said, affirm the experience without trying to be it.”
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