Former HADESTOWN Cast Member Kim Moore Sues Alleging Racial Discrimination

The suit alleges that Moore was fired after she complained about a hostile work environment.

By: Jun. 27, 2023
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Kim Moore, who appeared in Hadestown under the name Kim Steele, has sued the Hadestown producing entity alleging several counts of race discrimination and retaliation under New York State, New York City and federal law. Essentially, the suit alleges that Moore was a respected employee, but was fired soon after complaining about racial discrimination.

The producers of Hadestown have responded to a request for comment by denying the lawsuit's claims to BroadwayWorld. A written statement sent by the producers claims the allegations made in the lawsuit are "without merit" and casting decisions "are always based entirely on our goal to maintain the highest caliber of excellence" onstage. The statement (included in its entirety at the bottom of this story) also called Moore "a temporary replacement" who had "completed her contracted run in that capacity." 

According to an amended complaint filed in the Southern District of New York last week, Moore, who is identified in the complaint as “black and African American,” was hired around January 30, 2020, shortly before the theater shutdown, to be part of the musical’s Workers Chorus. She previously appeared on Broadway in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and off-Broadway in Jerry Springer: The Opera.

The complaint alleges that Moore’s employment was on solid ground for well over a year--there were complimentary emails, she got a raise, etc.--but then things took a turn. The complaint alleges that choreographer David Neumann emailed the cast on November 23, 2021 “apologizing for the ‘white savior story’, meaning, an exclusively black and African American group of actors for the Workers Chorus.” The complaint goes on to allege that Moore complained to Collette Luckie, of Cornerstone Consulting, who the complaint identifies as “Defendant’s human resources employee,” about what Moore felt was “hostility and anti-black sentiment by management with respect to the members of the Workers Chorus.” The complaint states that others complained as well. (The complaint also alleges that “‘all company debrief’ documents prepared by Defendant” a month prior, in October 2021, stated “‘black women who bring concerns are seen/labeled as problematic’” but it is unclear what those are or why they were prepared.)

A day later, Moore alleges she heard from the dance captain of Hadestown, Timothy Oliver Reid (a founder of the Black Theatre Coalition), that Hadestown management was seeking to replace her with a “white woman.” She then allegedly “complained a second time, this time to her union representative – Walt Kiskaddon – regarding discrimination against her solely on the basis of her race.” The complaint alleges that Moore was fired a little over a week later.

According to the complaint, a few days after these complaints, Beverly Edwards of RCI Theatricals, the show’s General Manager, told Moore the show would soon be “moving in a ‘different direction’ and would be terminating her employment[.]” The complaint then alleges Neumann sent another email, only to black cast members, stating that the show wanted to avoid an “all black” Workers Chorus.

The complaint next alleges that director Rachel Chavkin got involved, “indicat[ing] to her staff that she had hired a white woman to replace Moore because she sought to avoid an all-black Workers Chorus.” It also alleges another actor, Khaila Wilcoxon, was excluded from performing in the Workers Chorus for that same reason. (Wilcoxon, an original cast member, served as a swing and understudied Eurydice and one of the Fates until January 2022; joining the Six tour shortly thereafter.) And perhaps the most overt evidence referenced in the complaint is an alleged December 2, 2021 full company email from stage manager Beverly Jenkins (a veteran stage manager who was a 2020 Tony Honor recipient for Excellence in the Theatre and co-founded Broadway & Beyond: Access for Stage Managers of Color) that allegedly stated “there are too many Black people on stage[.]”

Moore then allegedly was officially fired on December 5, 2021, which the complaint alleges was retaliation against her because of her complaints. She stayed on for two additional weeks and IBDB lists her run in the show as February 11, 2020 through December 19, 2021 (but 18 months of that was during the pandemic-related hiatus). The complaint does allege she was replaced by a white woman. (The current Workers Chorus is not all black.)

Moore is seeking a judgment declaring that the producing entity of Hadestown engaged in unlawful employment practices prohibited in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (better known as “Section 1981”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. She is also obviously seeking damages, including lost salary (which was alleged to be $125,000 at the time of termination) and benefits; “compensatory damages for mental, emotional and physical injury, distress, pain and suffering and injuries to her reputation in an amount to be proven;” punitive damages and more.  

This is not the first time Chavkin, who has helmed projects with great racial diversity both on and off Broadway, has had to deal with accusations of racism. She directed NatashaPierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which faced accusations of racism when Mandy Patinkin was announced to replace Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan. (Patinkin dropped out because of the uproar and the show closed.) In summer 2020, costume designer Montana Levi Blanco also alleged racism after Chavkin let him go following the premiere of the musical Lempicka. Shortly after that accusation, Chavkin posted an apology on Instagram stating she “failed Montana as a leader and colleague” and she was “grateful for the message about [her] hurtful actions, and to Montana telling his truth.” The Instagram apology also included a commitment to be better and continue “to work for equity and justice in our field.” The complaint attaches an article from Broadway Direct in which Chavkin--who frequently comments on the need for diversity in the theater and used her 2019 Tony acceptance speech to highlight the issue--speaks highly of the “racial diversity and gender diversity” of Hadestown, but expresses a desire to hire an actor with a physical disability and be “more inclusive in terms of the cultures and racial heritages.

Hadestown faced a different type of public discrimination claim last fall when star Lillias White mistook an audience member's captioning device for a recording device and criticized the audience member, who had hearing loss, from the stage. The production and theater owner apologized for the incident

Assuming no early settlement, the lawsuit will proceed in the coming months. The next substantive step in this lawsuit will be the Hadestown team either answering the complaint or moving to dismiss it. 

The full statement from the producers of Hadestown reads as follows:
"Out of respect for members of our company, we don’t get into specific reasons around casting decisions. These kinds of decisions are painstakingly considered, and are always based entirely on our goal to maintain the highest caliber of excellence on the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre each night. In this particular case, a performer was hired as a temporary replacement, and she completed her contracted run in that capacity.  Unfortunately, the complaint that has been filed by this performer is completely without merit; and we will vigorously defend and stand by our company’s casting decisions."