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Dominique Morisseau Pulls Play From L.A. Theater, Citing ‘Harm’

The playwright Dominique Morisseau has ended the run of her play “Paradise Blue” just a week after it opened at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, saying that Black women who worked on the show had been “verbally abused and diminished.”

Morisseau did not specifically describe what happened. But in an 1,100-word Facebook post on Wednesday, she said that members of the creative team had been “allowed to behave disrespectfully,” that she had demanded an apology from one member of the team and that “instead of staunchly backing this, the Geffen continued to enable more abuse.”

“Harm was allowed to fester,” Morisseau said in the Facebook post.

“I gave the theater an ultimatum,” she added. “Respect the Black womxn artists working on my show, or I will pull my play.”

In a statement about the cancellation, the Geffen Playhouse said that officials had “apologized to everyone involved” and acknowledged having “fallen short” in its commitment to artists.

“An incident between members of the production was brought to our attention and we did not respond decisively in addressing it,” the theater’s statement, released on Wednesday, said. “As a result of these missteps, some members of the production felt unsafe and not fully supported.”

“Paradise Blue,” which is set in 1949, is part of Morisseau’s trilogy of Detroit plays, which have been widely produced at theaters around the country. It played Off Broadway in 2018; the Geffen production had opened to strong reviews on Nov. 18, and had been set to run through Dec. 12.

“Skeleton Crew,” another play in the trilogy, is scheduled to begin Broadway performances on Dec. 21.

The theater declined to comment beyond its written statements. Morisseau did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Morisseau’s decision to pull the play over what she described as the mistreatment of Black artists and the dismissal of their complaints comes as theater continues to grapple with how to reform itself and improve its culture.

The protests over the police killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 ignited a nationwide reckoning over racism and inequality in America that resonated in the theater world. As artists prepared to return from the long pandemic shutdown, some have grown more outspoken about what they say are pervasive problems in the industry.

This summer Broadway power brokers signed a pact pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices as theaters were preparing to reopen.

In her Facebook post, Morisseau — who earned a Tony Award nomination as the book writer for “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”— said she had been “gutted” by what had transpired with “Paradise Blue.”

She urged the theater industry to “look inward and acknowledge a pervasive culture of anti-blackness, anti-womxness, and anti-black-womxnness.”

Apsny News English

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