“Jagged Little Pill” and Actors’ Equity are conducting separate, independent investigations into claims of mistreatment recently made public by a cast member.
Nora Schell, an original cast member of “Jagged Little Pill,” posted an account on Twitter Friday in which they alleged the stage manager and other members of the management team repeatedly dismissed Schell’s need for medical treatment related to a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. After experiencing a medical emergency related to the condition, Schell alleged that they were “coerced” to delay necessary, immediate surgery by more than a month.
In a response Saturday, “Jagged Little Pill” lead producers Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price said they were “deeply troubled” by Schell’s claims and had hired law firm Jay Hewlin and The Hewlin Group to independently investigate the matter. The producers also said they were launching an external review of the productions’ policies and procedures for its company members.
“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,” the statement Saturday reads.
“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,” the statement continues.
On Sunday, Antonio Cipriano, who played Phoenix in “Jagged Little Pill,” said he would not be returning to “Jagged Little Pill” and acknowledged the “harm that many trans + non-binary and all marginalized folks on-stage cast members and off have endured throughout they years.” Cipriano had been announced as part of the returning cast Thursday.
It was previously announced that Schell, who is a nonbinary actor, will not be part of the cast when “Jagged Little Pill” resumes Broadway performances Oct. 21.
On Sunday afternoon, hours before “Jagged Little Pill” enters the Tony Awards fray, Actors’ Equity said it would conduct its own independent investigation into Schell’s claims.
“We are deeply concerned about the revelations in Nora Schell’s statement released Friday. 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. We are currently in the final phases of identifying and retaining an appropriate attorney to conduct this work.”
Schell, through their legal representative, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to their account, Schell repeatedly informed the stage manager of their condition, which can cause blood loss and anemia. However, this information was not passed on to the creative team, Schell alleges, causing confusion whenever Schell asked to take time off for surgery or step out of rehearsals and performances.
After feeling faint during a Broadway dress rehearsal and asking to return home and contact their doctor, Schell claims that they were told to instead nap in their dressing room and return for the evening performance. Later, while climbing the stairs to their dressing room, Schell said they collapsed.
“I was told to push through. My stage manager stood by and did nothing. This SM allowed me to be intimidated into staying and performing when I was clearly not well,” Schell’s post reads.
The account from Schell follows criticisms of the production’s treatment of gender identity in the show and what was seen as the erasure of the nonbinary storyline of Jo, played by cisgender actor Lauren Patten.
Producers addressed the long-brewing controversy in a statement on Sept. 17, saying that Jo’s character is on a “gender journey” and apologized for the team’s “issues of transparency and accountability.” The producers have hired a new dramaturgical team, which includes non-binary, transgender and BIPOC individuals to revisit the script and will prioritize nonbinary and trans actors for the role going forward.
Additionally, the producers say they will institute listening and learning sessions and bias training for the company members led by a newly hired director of people and culture.