Broadway's Suffs Disrupted by Protesters | Playbill

Broadway News Broadway's Suffs Disrupted by Protesters

As banners unfurled and chants echoed through the Music Box Theatre, the protest history of the musical was firmly transported into the 21st century.

Hannah Cruz and company of Suffs Joan Marcus

Updated at 12 PM to add cast member Laila Erica Drew's reaction.

The July 2 performance of the Broadway musical Suffs was disrupted by protestors.

As per social media posts from indie protest reporter Talia Jane, the demonstrators (which numbered at least four) unfurled banners from the theatre's box seats during the musical's first act that read "SUFFS is a white wash" while chanting for the show to be cancelled. The protest was organized by, a loose, anonymous coalition who reject Suffs' depictions of American first-wave feminism. 

A statement on their site reads: "Suffs is a betrayal of the next generation of feminists. We REJECT [sic] this rehashed white feminism. This action is brought to you by an autonomous group of radical, anti-racist, queer feminists... Suffs claims to teach history but really it’s a whitewashed, slanted, and ultimately dangerous version of history."

Suffs was brought to a standstill in its first act by the demonstration, with the performance held until the notably white-presenting demonstrators were removed, along with their banner. Their positioning was somewhat ironic, as in the second act banners are dropped and chants are heard from the same box seats when the characters protest Woodrow Wilson's inaction with women's suffrage. Suffs writer and star Shaina Taub was forced to add a line specifying that these banners were "part of the convention," assumedly so audience members would know this wasn't another demonstration.

The group claims on their website that Suffs edits out the racist history embedded within many of the suffrage leaders depicted within the show. It appears that the website has not been updated since the show was heavily rewritten prior to its Broadway transfer, as it calls for the elevation of two Black feminists who pushed directly against the racist rhetoric of Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt. These rewrites emphasized both of those women within the show, including cultural icon and protest journalist Ida B. Wells (played by Tony winner Nikki M. James, who received an additional Tony nomination for her performance in Suffs), as well as Civil Rights trailblazers Mary Church Terrell, with her daughter, activist Phyllis Terrell, also being folded into the show as it appears on Broadway.

Company member Laila Erica Drew, who plays Phyllis Terrell and Robin in the show, posted a response to the action as an Instagram story. "Since we wanna talk about erasure, thanks for trying to erase the work I do in this show," she writes. "Now I definitely know nobody cares that I'm baring my soul and my ancestral pain on stage every single night, especially the people who claim to be fighting for us but in the same breath say they want to 'cancel' one of the only shows on Broadway that addresses Black erasure. it seems we have forgotten who the real enemy is in this fight. You wanna protest? You wanna make a difference? Do something for the people you claim to fight for."

In the spirit of supporting protest action, the producers of Suffs had little to say beyond confirmation of the public events. "We can confirm this incident happened at last night’s performance of Suffs, and at no point was the safety of any company members or patrons at the Music Box Theatre compromised," reads a statement provided to Playbill.

Suffs continues in performances at Broadway's Music Box Theatre.

Photos: Shaina Taub's Suffs on Broadway

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