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The producers behind the Tony-nominated Jagged Little Pill have responded to claims made by a former cast member alleging mistreatment and discrimination, stating they are “deeply troubled” and will launch both an investigation into the issues raised and an external review of the production’s policies and procedures.
“We are deeply troubled by the recent claims that have been made by a former cast member. We met with our cast and members of our core creative team today to let them know we take this matter very seriously and to share with them the actions we are taking in response,” lead producers Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David, and Eva Price said in a statement released Saturday.
According to the statement, the external firm Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group will investigate the “incident and the individuals involved.” The producers also announced they are immediately launching an external review of the show’s policies and procedures.
“Broadway shows are by their very nature collaborative human efforts, so there is nothing more important to us than our people,” the producers said. “We are committed to continuing to nurture a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected.”
The statement follows former cast member and nonbinary actor Nora Schell alleging in a social media post mistreatment by stage management and other members of the show’s creative leadership, with Tony-nominated actress and fellow former cast member Celia Rose Gooding pointing to “harm to the trans and non-binary community both onstage and off” as part of why she departed the production.
The producers did not specify which of the two allegations they were responding to.
In her own statement Friday on Twitter, Gooding, who was recently announced to play Uhura in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, said she had stepped back from the show in part “to focus more on work that I can align myself with emotionally and morally.”
— celia r. gooding (@celiargooding) September 24, 2021
“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,” she 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.”
In a more lengthy statement also posted to Twitter on Friday, Schell alleges that despite numerous efforts to communicate with the musical’s creative team about their polycystic ovary syndrome and related symptoms, as well as keep them updated of their treatment as it may have impacted their ability to perform, they say their messages were not relayed to creative leadership. Furthermore, once they did make their evolving medical situation clear, Schell alleges creative leadership “effectively coerced” them to go against their medical professional’s advice and delay a necessary surgery.
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
Schell identifies stage management as the first point of contact, alleging that in 2019 the actor disclosed details around their ongoing PCOS care. That included communication about a previous surgery, medications and related anemia. Schell says they were told this information would be relayed to the creative team by management several times following in-person and email communications.
They describe instances of going “in and out of consciousness” and nearly losing their balance on stage — the result of their anemia caused by losing blood for over four weeks — during a rehearsal. It’s at this time they say it became clear creative leadership had not been made aware of the issue or prior attempts at communication by stage management. But once they had, they say they collapsed on stairs that same day, after being told to “nap” instead of going home and getting emergency medical care.
Once they came back, they say the treatment and response to their medical care did not improve. While recovering they were “intimidated” by company management, with their recovery period “diminished and dismissed.” They said they were also told that they would not be paid while taking personal days, were met with “exasperation” and told that future days off due to their PCOS “wouldn’t be considered paid medical leave.”
On Friday afternoon, Actor’s Equity released a statement noting that they are “deeply concerned about the revelations in @noritachiquita‘s statement” and that they are “looking into everything they brought forward” and “recognize this was a truly painful experience that shouldn’t have happened.”
We are deeply concerned about the revelations in @noritachiquita's statement released today. We are looking into everything they brought forward. We recognize this was a truly painful experience that shouldn’t have happened. pic.twitter.com/uJB8jqygoe
— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) September 24, 2021
The following Wednesday, Actors’ Equity Association announced it had engaged New York labor attorney Micah Wissinger to conduct its independent Jagged Little Pill workplace review. A partner at Levy Ratner and a transgender man, Wissinger is experienced in labor and employment law and in representing transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
“As a transgender man, Wissinger brings relevant personal experience in addition to his extensive professional qualifications to the investigation,” the statement noted. “We trust Mr. Wissinger to conduct a thorough and fair examination of the experiences of Nora Schell and other company members at the show.”
The allegations follow the show’s lead producers’ lengthy statement on Sept. 17 apologizing for how its team publicly discussed and then featured one character’s gender journey in the show as it transitioned from Boston to Broadway. The statement also included several pledges and announcements about significant production changes around casting, writing and the show’s creative environment that have been put in place to ensure that the show’s on and off-screen treatment of nonbinary and trans narratives and production members is equitable, authentic and safe.
Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m. Updated with additional details on the Actors’ Equity Association appointment of Micah Wissinger.
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