The producers of Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill have hired an outside firm to investigate claims of an unsupportive workplace made yesterday by former cast member Nora Schell.
“We are deeply troubled by the recent claims that have been made by a former cast member,” said Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David, and Eva Price, lead producers of Jagged Little Pill, in a statement. “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.”
Among the actions the producers are taking is the hiring of Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group, a consulting firm that specializes in diversity/inclusion, leadership development, employment law, and other management issues.
The firm, the producers said, will “conduct a comprehensive investigation of this incident and the individuals involved, and we are immediately launching an external review of all our policies and procedures with the wellbeing of all our employees in mind.”
The producers’ statement comes a day after Schell, a Black non-binary actor who made their Broadway debut in the Jagged Little Pill chorus in 2019, posted a statement on social media describing repeated instances early in the run of the show in which they were “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.”
Schell, who is not returning to the Broadway production when it resumes performances on Oct. 21 following the pandemic shutdown, said they had been diagnosed by a gynecologist with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and that the news was either ignored or downplayed by a Jagged Little Pill stage manager and, later, members of the creative team.
In a separate social media post yesterday, Schell said the Jagged Little Pill stage manager, who went unnamed, is a vice president of the Actors’ Equity union. Equity released a statement yesterday expressing concern over the allegations and pledging to conduct its own investigation.
The producers’ statement released today reads in full:
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. These actions include appointing an external firm, Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group, to conduct a comprehensive investigation of this incident and the individuals involved, and we are immediately launching an external review of all our policies and procedures with the wellbeing of all our employees in mind. Broadway shows are by their very nature collaborative human efforts, so there is nothing more important to us than our people. We are committed to continuing to nurture a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
Schell was one of two previous cast members to speak out yesterday about the production’s treatment of trans and non-binary people. The Tony-nominated Celia Rose Gooding, who recently landed the role of Uhura in the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds TV series and will not return to her role of Frankie in Jagged Little Pill when it reopens, said in a statement yesterday that she “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…I believe it will be in my best personal interest to focus more on work that I can align myself with emotionally and morally, just as Frankie would.”
The musical, which features the songs of Morissette (co-written with Glen Ballard), direction by Diane Paulus and an original story by Diablo Cody, is nominated for 15 Tony Awards. Six members of the cast, including Gooding, are up for awards this Sunday. Gooding confirmed that she will perform with the cast during the awards show, marking her final performance in the role.
The production previously came under criticism from members of the trans and non-binary communities for revising the musical’s character named Jo, played by Tony nominee Lauren Patten, from a non-binary character to a gay cis female character. Producers apologized for the revision last weekend and pledged to take steps to address both future casting procedures and cultivate an “equitable working culture.”
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