Nora Schell, one of the original Broadway company members of the musical Jagged Little Pill, shared a statement September 24 outlining allegations of mistreatment in regards to a medical condition. Posted on Twitter, their account details how the stage management and creative teams of Jagged Little Pill asked Schell to postpone a surgery to receive treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
“During previews...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,” writes Schell, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns. “Surgery my doctor told me was urgent.”
A spokesperson for the production did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Schell says they initially divulged their PCOS medical condition in summer 2019 to an unnamed stage manager and was told the information would be relayed to the creative team and higher ups. By the time rehearsals began in the fall, Schell says at one point they were “in and out of consciousness” due to loss of blood from their worsening condition. Upon asking the creative team for rest, Schell says, it became apparent the team had not been informed of their condition.
Despite their gynocologist recommending immediate surgery, Schell waited a month to have the surgery due to fear of intimidation. During recovery, Schell felt a lack of support. “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 [time], it wouldn’t be considered paid medical leave.” After relaying that exchange, Schell’s OB/GYN said she would no longer be ethically able to operate on them if they remained working at the show.
When casting was announced September 24 for the Broadway return Jagged Little Pill, Schell was not listed. Celia Rose Gooding will also not be returning to the role of Frankie. While originally citing scheduling commitments, the Tony nominee said that while she will indeed perform at the 74th annual Tony Awards September 26, 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.” Read the full statement here.
Earlier this month, the show’s producers announced steps to address controversy that unfolded during the shutdown over the show's depiction of gender identity. Action items included a written apology, the hiring of Colette Luckie as the director of people and culture, and a promise to actively be more inclusive in casting of performers who are trans or non-binary. Iris Menas, another non-cisgender ensemble member, joined Schell in leaving the production.