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JAGGED LITTLE PILL Releases Statement Addressing Controversy Surrounding Jo's Gender Identity

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The character, who was portrayed as non-binary out of town by actor Lauren Patten was made to be cisgender for Broadway.

Lead producers Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price have released a statement on behalf of Jagged Little Pill addressing the controversy surrounding the character Jo - who was performed as non-binary at the out of town tryout, before being changed to cisgender for Broadway without addressing the surrounding conflicts and story arc.

The full statement can be found below. The production has also put together links on their action plan and resources which can be found here.

UPDATE: Lauren Patten has also responded, posting an Instagram conversation with Shakina Nayfack about accountability.

"I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to return to this character with the reopening of Jagged on Broadway, and I know that comes with responsibility," Patten writes.

The full conversation can be seen below.

Jagged Little Pill will reopen on Broadway on Thursday, October 21, 2021, ending a nineteen-month suspension of performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets to the show inspired by seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette's seminal album of the same name

Broadway is back. Rehearsals for Jagged Little Pill are starting and our cast, our crew and our entire company are filled with excitement and anticipation.

The past year and a half have been the toughest in living memory tough for the whole world, and in a specific and existentially unsettling way for our cast and company who were shut down only short weeks after we had started. The relief we feel in knowing we will all be together again is palpable and heart-bursting.

But before we reconvene, there are some things we need to say: We want to recognize the reasonable and deeply felt upset around the issues of transparency and accountability and the character of Jo.

We are thankful and grateful to those who have spoken up on this subject, both within our company and in our audience. We owe you a response in both words and actions. It has taken a moment to put in place the actions, so we also apologize for the delay in these words. We recognized the importance of the work and decided that doing it well was more important than doing it quickly.

In Jo, we set out to portray a character on a gender expansive journey without a known outcome.

Throughout the creative process, as the character evolved and changed, between Boston & Broadway, we made mistakes in how we handled this evolution. In a process designed to clarify and streamline, many of the lines that signaled Jo as gender non-conforming, and with them, something vital and integral, got removed from Jo's character journey.

Compounding our mistake, we then stated publicly and categorically that Jo was never written or conceived as non-binary. That discounted and dismissed what people saw and felt in this character's journey. We should not have done that.

We should have, instead, engaged in an open discussion about nuance and gender spectrum. We should have protected and celebrated the fact that the non-binary audience members saw in Jo a bold, defiant, complex, and vibrant representation of their community.

For all of this we are deeply sorry. As leaders of this very special enterprise, we should have done better and recognize our failure and its consequences. 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).

Jagged Little Pill addresses many topics: opiate addiction, transracial adoption, sexual assault, gender identity, marriage crisis, and mental health. Many times, we were told "this is too much" but always, encouraged by the bravery of our creative team, most of all by Alanis, we persevered.

We are very proud of the show we made and its transformative power. It is precisely because we have made this show about these charged and nuanced issues a show about radical empathy and truth-telling, about protest and vulnerability we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We owe it to the show we made, the extraordinary people we have made it with, and to you our audience, to keep striving through our imperfection. As a start to that on-going process, we have undertaken the below actions:

1. We have hired a new dramaturgical team (which includes non-binary, transgender, and BIPOC representation), to revisit and deepen the script. In particular, we commit to clarity and integrity in the telling of Jo's story. The story of a gender nonconforming teen who is on an open-ended journey with regard to their queerness and gender identity.

2. We have instituted practices that intentionally broaden the casting of all roles to artists of all gender identities. We already have and will continue to make it explicit in all future casting that the character of Jo is on a gender journey and prioritize auditioning actors for the role who are on gender journeys or uncderstand that experience personally- including artists who are non-binary, gender fluid, gender-expansive or otherwise fall under the trans community umbrella.

3. We will cultivate a more participative, responsive, safe, and equitable working culture, specifically for our returning and newly hired non-binary, trans, queer, and BIPOC company members. This work includes listening and learning sessions, bias training related to transphobia and anti-racism, and continuous avenues for measurable allyship and advocacy. To support this work, we have brought into our senior leadership team a Director of People & Culture, who will be an ongoing source of support, training, and advocacy for the company and crew.

4. We are putting in place partnerships with The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline in order to help amplify their voices and bring much needed attention to the important work they are doing. These relationships will build over time - starting with an initial donation to a broad range of fundraising and policy initiatives.

We do these things not to quell debate around these issues. We are humbled by, and grateful for, the critical conversations that continue to occur. We welcome all who would be constructive in this enterprise. Broadway has much work to do. We have much work to do. We look forward to doing it together.


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