Dominique Morisseau pulls ‘Paradise Blue’ at Geffen Playhouse, citing harm to Black women artists

A woman, left, and a man in an embrace
Shayna Small and Wendell B. Franklin in “Paradise Blue” at the Geffen Playhouse, whose run was canceled Wednesday after playwright Dominique Morisseau pulled it, citing harm to Black women working on the show.
(Jeff Lorch)

Just one week after the West Coast premiere of the play “Paradise Blue” opened to glowing reviews at Geffen Playhouse, playwright Dominique Morisseau has pulled the show and canceled the remainder of the run, citing harm to its Black women artists.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Morrisseau wrote that her decision came after she discovered that Black women artists involved with the show were being “verbally abused and diminished.” Morisseau wrote that she investigated and that she and other creatives brought the problem to the attention of the Westwood theater.

“I wrote email after email. Drew lines in the sand. And even gave grace and mercy that was not necessarily warranted,” Morisseau wrote. “I was met with boldface dishonesty. Commitments to do a thing and then doing the exact opposite of that commitment. And in the process, I watched more and more of my creative team continue to be harmed.”


Morisseau did not elaborate on what happened, but she noted, “Harm began from within. Harm happened internally within the creative team, when fellow artists were allowed to behave disrespectfully.”

The Broadway production, which combines ‘80s hits with a 16th century pastoral romance, is freshly re-conceived at Pasadena Playhouse.

Nov. 16, 2021

When harm is reported to a theater, and the theater has the final say on how the harm will be addressed but does not address it appropriately, she said, then it’s “time to pull the plug.”

The Geffen issued a statement to The Times late Wednesday that read in part: “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.”

The statement went on: “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.”

Earlier in the day, the Geffen announced the play’s cancellation in emails to ticket holders. The theater also posted a note on its website that read, “Due to unforeseen circumstances related to production, the remaining performances of Dominique Morisseau’s Paradise Blue at Geffen Playhouse have been canceled. We are very proud of the show and regret having to end the run at this time.”

In her Facebook post, Morisseau called the Geffen “a necessary institution in our field. It needs support to continue to make space for LA Theatre artists, playwrights, storytellers and change makers. Even if I am no longer in that number.”


She continued: “But it will not be in service to our field until it recognizes the root of what went wrong here. 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.”

“Paradise Blue” is part of Morisseau’s “Detroit Project,” a three-play cycle including “Skeleton Crew” and “Detroit ‘67,” which delves into the lives and history of the Black community in Morisseau’s hometown. “Skeleton Crew” ran at the Geffen in 2018 and is set to open on Broadway in January. “Paradise Blue,” which takes place in a downtown jazz club in 1949, was scheduled to run through Dec. 12.

As part of Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Project” trilogy, the work chronicles the generational struggles of the Black community in the playwright’s native city.

Nov. 22, 2021