On Wednesday, playwright Dominique Morisseau pulled her acclaimed “Paradise Blue” from the Geffen Playhouse, accusing the theater’s management of “boldface dishonesty” in how it dealt with abuse she said was directed at Black women working on the play. The decision comes a week after the play’s west coast premiere.
In a lengthy statement posted Nov. 24 to her Facebook page, Morriseau announced the decision to pull the play, and said she expected the Geffen Playhouse to dismiss and sweep the matter “under the rug.”
Morisseau didn’t go into detail about what precisely had occurred, but she said that unnamed Black women working on the play were “verbally abused and diminished,” and that Geffen Playhouse didn’t deal the matter appropriately. Morisseau said she repeatedly contacted Geffen Playhouse, which made “commitments to do a thing,” only to do “the exact opposite of that commitment. And in the process, I watched more and more of my creative team continue to be harmed.”
In her statement, Morisseau also said, “I am writing this note in solidarity with the Black womxn of my show. Not all of them. We are not a monolith. I do not speak for the Black womxn who may feel harm was just a normal part of the theatre process. I speak for the Black womxn of my show who, in some fashion or another, stood up to the theatre and said no more.”
“They walked. They demanded respect and an apology. And I stood up with them. Promised them I will have their backs. That they will not be fearful or un-courageous and feel obliged to suffer more abuse,” Morisseau continued.
Morriseau suggested that whatever happened, someone she spoke to may have blamed the content of the play itself for it.
“To blame anything but the culture of misogyny and abuse that has been allowed to run rampant in our field for generations, is to lie to themselves and the rest of us. To blame the subject of a play, that was built in the tradition of Black liberation storytelling, and is a story about Black womxn empowerment against abuse…. is to lie about my play and its impact. To blame the individual artists who felt powerless, lied-to, and frustrated… is to lie about the responsibility of institutions built on patriarchy,” she wrote.
“To look inward and acknowledge a pervasive culture of anti-blackness, anti-womxness, and anti-black-womxnness Is to finally be pointed toward the truth,” she concluded.
In a statement posted to the Geffen Playhouse’s website, the theater’s management said: “After a series of events, the Geffen Playhouse production of Paradise Blue has been cancelled. An incident between members of the production was brought to our attention and we did not respond decisively in addressing it. As a result of these missteps, some members of the production felt unsafe and not fully supported.”
“We continually examine our best practices so artists and staff feel safe and can achieve their best work. In this case, we acknowledge having fallen short of this commitment. We have apologized to everyone involved, and in learning from this experience, we commit to continuing our ongoing work to improve and evolve as artists and collaborators.”
“We respect Dominique Morisseau and her work enormously, and we are proud of this powerful and beautiful production.”