Jagged Little Pill's Lauren Patten thanked her transgender and non-binary colleagues when accepting her Tony Award Sunday night, amid backlash regarding her character and the show.
Patten, 29, won the award for best featured actress in a musical for her role as Jo Taylor in Jagged Little Pill, which uses songs from Alanis Morissette's 1995 album of the same name.
The musical has faced controversy over the character, who was originally written and played as non-binary during a run in Boston. However, when the show went to Broadway, the role was depicted as a gay, cisgender female.
Patten acknowledged this in her acceptance speech, sharing, "It is such a joy to finally be able to celebrate all of these phenomenal artists in this room after this long, long pause. It is also a strange time for awards. We are in the middle of a reckoning in our industry."
"And first and foremost I want to thank my trans and non-binary friends and colleagues who have engaged with me in difficult conversations, that have joined me in dialogue about my character Jo," she continued.
"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," Patten said. "And I am so excited to see the action that comes from them, and to see where that leads our future as theatre artists in this country."
Patten previously addressed the controversy over her character last week, posting an Instagram video titled "accountability conversation" with transgender actress and activist Shakina Nayfack.
"I am profoundly sorry for the harm I caused, and I am thankful to Shakina, as well as the friends and colleagues with whom I have spoken privately, for holding me accountable," she captioned the chat. "It is my deepest hope for Jo to be a character that can be claimed and owned by folks of many queer identities — butch and masc women, nonbinary and genderqueer folks, trans men, and many more. Theatre has the power and the potential to be expansive, and I hope that Jo can be a representation of that moving forward."
Producers spoke to the "reasonable and deeply felt upset around the issues of transparency and accountability and the character of Jo" in a Twitter statement earlier this month, outlining several actions taken in response.
"As leaders of this very special enterprise, we should have done better and recognize our failure and its consequences," the statement read. "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)."
In addition to the backlash over Jo, Jagged Little Pill producers have been accused of causing harm to the trans and non-binary community by a few former cast members.
Following his performance with the cast at Sunday's 74th Tony Awards, Antonio Cipriano announced that he was exiting the show, and used his statement as an opportunity to speak out against the producers' alleged behavior.
"I have to acknowledge the harm that many trans + non-binary, and all marginalized folks, on-stage cast members and off have endured through the years," he wrote in part.
Celia Rose Gooding, who will also retire from her run as Mary Frances "Frankie" Healy after the performance at Sunday's awards show, bid farewell to the musical on Twitter Friday while calling out the producers. The show has a total of 42 producers, according to its website.
"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. 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," she shared.
Nora Schell, a non-binary actor who made their Broadway debut in the chorus and other roles on Jagged Little Pill, wrote that they were "heavily pressured and eventually asked to wait to get NECESSARY surgery to remove polyps from my vagina" after being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Schell wrote that they communicated their condition to the show's management, also letting them know that they were struggling with anemia due to the subsequent blood loss from their PCOS. The star said they were told that the information would be relayed to the creative team, but allegedly, that never happened. Schell recounted losing consciousness due to anemia during a dress rehearsal, writing that a "higher up" told them to "push through."
The inaction that followed their complaints "allowed me to be intimidated into staying and performing when I was clearly not well," Schell wrote, adding that a costar ultimately advocated for them and they were allowed to go home.
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
"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,'" they 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."
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Additionally, Schell wrote that their gynecologist said she "could not ethically continue to operate" on them if they remained in a work environment that ignores their medical needs.
"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. I'm still dealing with the consequences of waiting to get this surgery," Schell concluded.
The lead producers issued a social media statement ensuring a "comprehensive investigation" on Saturday.
"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 read in part. "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."