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Actors’ Equity Hires Labor Lawyer Micah Wissinger To Investigate ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Workplace – Update

UPDATE THROUGHOUT Actors’ Equity Association has hired New York labor attorney Micah Wissinger to conduct the independent review of the workplace at Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill as a result of last week’s claims by non-binary former cast member Nora Schell that they had been intimidated into postponing medical attention during the production’s preview period.

In a statement today, Equity said that Wissinger, a partner at Levy Ratner, has extensive experience in labor and employment law, “including conducting workplace investigations and representing transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.”

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“As a transgender man, Wissinger brings relevant personal experience in addition to his extensive professional qualifications to the investigation,” Equity said. “We trust Mr. Wissinger to conduct a thorough and fair examination of the experiences of Nora Schell and other company members at the show.”

Equity said on Sunday that it would commission “a thorough, independent investigation of the Jagged Little Pill workplace,” and that at that point it was in the final phases of identifying and retaining an attorney to conduct the work.

The announcement followed Saturday’s decision by the lead producers of Jagged Little Pill to hire an outside firm to conduct its own investigation into claims made by former cast member Nora Schell about workplace conditions at the Broadway musical.

In its statement Sunday, Equity said, “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.”

Last Saturday, the Jagged Little Pill producers announced they had hired an outside firm to investigate claims of an unsupportive workplace made yesterday by Schell and other cast members.

“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 came 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 Saturday read 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 last week 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 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 Alanis Morissette (co-written with Glen Ballard), direction by Diane Paulus and an original story by Diablo Cody, was nominated for 15 Tony Awards. Cody won the award for her book, while Lauren Patten won for best featured performance by an actress in a musical. Gooding performed with other cast members 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 Patten’s character Jo from a non-binary character to a gay cis female character. Producers later apologized for the revision and pledged to take steps to address both future casting procedures and cultivate an “equitable working culture.”

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