Jagged Little Pill, the acclaimed musical inspired by Alanis Morissette's album, came to the center of two controversies in the days leading up to Sunday night's Tony Awards and before performances resume next month. Earlier this month, producers apologized for making the character Jo cisgender by the time the play opened on Broadway. On Saturday, producers hired an outside firm to investigate claims cast member Nora Schell made about misconduct behind the scenes.
Schell, a non-binary actor, made the misconduct allegations in a statement she shared on Twitter on Sept. 24. They claimed they were "heavily pressured and eventually asked to wait to get NECESSARY surgery to remove polyps from my vagina." In 2019, Schell told the show's management they were diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and were struggling with anemia. Schell claims they were told the creative team would be told about this, but that didn't happen. At one point, Schell lost consciousness during a dress rehearsal because of their anemia, but a "higher-up" told them to "push through."
this is unacceptable. nobody should have to put off necessary medical treatment for a show, ever. https://t.co/tsdhBdhi4Y— celia r. gooding (@celiargooding) September 24, 2021
"After surgery, I was intimidated by company management. The validity of my recovery period was diminished and dismissed. I was told 'I need to work to get paid' and that 'I can't expect to be paid when taking personal days,'" Schell wrote. "When I relayed the possibility of these growths returning/needing surgery again in the future, I was met with exasperation and told that if I had to take off it wouldn't be considered paid medical leave."
Later, their gynecologist told Schell she could not "ethically" operate on them if they were working in an environment where their medical needs were ignored. "I've been vaguely referencing mistreatment for years, and this is certainly not an exhaustive account of my experiences, but it is certainly the most alarming, fundamentally wrong, and DANGEROUS incident I experienced," Schell concluded. "I'm still dealing with the consequences of waiting to get this surgery."
Celia Rose Gooding, who played Mary Frances Healy in the play and will not be back with the show when it returns, also accused the producers of misconduct, reports PEOPLE. In a Sept. 24 statement, Gooding said she could not "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," adding, "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." Gooding continued, "Action statements have been released, and I look forward to witnessing these changes; but 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."
On Saturday, Sept. 25, Jagged Little Pill lead producers Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvid Ethan, and Eva Price announced they have hired Jay Hewlin The Hewlin Group to conduct a "comprehensive investigation" into Schell's allegations. The Actors' Equity Union also announced plans to commission a "thorough, independent investigation of the Jagged Little Pill workplace" on Sunday, reports Deadline. "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," the union noted.
Jagged Little Pill's other controversy involves the changing of the character Jo, played by Blue Bloods actor Lauren Patten. When Jagged was performed in Boston, Jo was written as a non-binary character using they/them pronouns. However, when the show moved to Broadway, the character became a cisgender gay woman. On Sept. 17, the producers released an apology and listed plans for the character in the future. "As leaders of this very special enterprise, we should have done better and recognize our failure and its consequences," the producers wrote. "We put our cast and our fans in a difficult position. Torn between their love for the show we created and their hurt and disappointment around this issue and with our words (and then with our silence)."