New York’s Broadway production of the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill continues to be plagued with controversy over its alleged mistreatment of trans and non-binary cast members.
Two investigations have been launched into the production’s treatment of cast members, even as the show won two Tony awards from its record 15 nominations on Sunday, ahead of its Broadway reopening on October 21 and a scheduled Sydney launch in December.
Trouble began to brew prior to Jagged Little Pill’s Broadway debut earlier this year. Concerns were raised about the producers’ decision to re-write one of the central characters Jo as a cis gendered woman, despite being widely considered to be non-binary.
Explosive Allegations Against Producers
Black, non-binary actor Nora Schell, who made their Broadway debut in Jagged Little Pill, added more fuel to the fire in a public statement released last Friday. Schell made explosive allegations that producers told them to delay urgent care for their polycystic ovarian syndrome to not “inconvenience the show” during its 2019 rehearsal.
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
“I was intimidated, coerced and forced by multiple higher ups to put off CRITICAL AND NECESSARY (emphasis provided) surgery to remove growths from my vagina that were making me anaemic. Surgery my doctor told me was urgent,” Schell tweeted.
Further accusations were made by nonbinary ex-cast member Iris Menas, who condemned the production team for their unethical behaviour, claiming to “have PTSD” from the higher-ups’ “traumatizing” behaviour.
Two Investigations Launched
— Jagged Little Pill (@jaggedmusical) September 17, 2021
Jagged Little Pill employs Alanis Morissette’s music to tell the story of an American family spiralling out of control. Ironically, it now appears the production is also spiralling out of control, with two separate investigations launched in recent days and a number of if its lead artists walking out mere weeks before the musical is set to reopen on Broadway on October 21.
The first investigation was initiated by the producers, who hired an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation. The second is a more serious investigation that will be undertaken by Actors’ Equity Association.
In a statement announcing its investigation, Actors’ Equity Association said: “We appreciate that the producers of Jagged Little Pill are taking their allegations seriously and have hired an independent investigator. To ensure the highest level of accountability, Actors’ Equity Association is also commissioning a thorough, independent investigation of the Jagged Little Pill workplace.”
15 Tony Nominations & Two Wins
Despite the musical’s 15 Tony nominations, it only picked up two trophies at Sunday night’s ceremony.
Actor Lauren Patten, who plays the role of Jo, addressed the controversy head on in her acceptance speech for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
“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 at Sunday’s ceremony.
“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.”
A similar controversy regarding the casting and treatment of trans and non-binary people within Australia’s own theatre industry was recently brought to light. Concerns were raised when Hugh Sheridan was cast in the lead ‘gender queer’ role of the Sydney Festival production of Hedwig And The Angry Inch.
After being postponed in 2020, the Australian leg of Jagged Little Pill is finally set to open in Sydney this December. Natalie Bassingthwaighte was recently announced to play the lead role of Mary Jane Healy in the musical.
Star Observer reached out to the Australian producers for comment on the ongoing controversy surrounding the New York production. The producers said that further announcements about the Australian casting “would be made in coming weeks”.