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‘Suffs’ July 2 performance disrupted by protestors

The group interrupted the Broadway musical at the Music Box Theatre.

The company of “Suffs” on Broadway, 2024 (Credit: Joan Marcus)

During the July 2 evening performance of “Suffs,” a group of protestors interrupted the show’s first act. The new musical began previews at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre on March 26 before officially opening on April 18. 

Set in 1913, “Suffs” chronicles the U.S. women’s suffrage movement and its pursuit to pass the 19th Amendment.

A cell phone video shows a pair of individuals hanging a banner from the house-left box that read “SUFFS IS A WHITE WASH.” before chanting “Suffs is a white wash, cancel Suffs.” 

The show paused briefly for theater staff to remove the banner and the disruptors. A representative for the production confirmed that the approximately 15-second disruption took place just before the song “Ladies,” sung by the character President Woodrow Wilson. 

The banner’s URL leads to the website and states that it is “brought to you by an autonomous group of radical, anti-racist, queer feminists.” The group objects to the musical, calling it a white-washing of feminist history.

However, writer-composer-lyricist Shaina Taub addresses the flaws, specifically the white supremacy, of the women’s suffrage movement in her Tony Award-winning book and score

The website claims “Suffs” edits racist history out of the show. But “Suffs” distinctly acknowledges that the movement prioritized white women over Black women — specifically during a scene when National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul (played by Taub) tells Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells (played by Nikki M. James) that Black women can only participate in the party’s March on Washington at the back of the line, rather than with their respective state delegates. The scene leads to Wells’ song “Wait My Turn,” expressing her frustration with the racist request. (“Wait My Turn” was performed before the protest took place.) Other acknowledgments of racism and faults in the movement are included in “Suffs.” A number of other claims on the protestor’s website are also false.

In a statement from the production, a representative said, “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.” The spokesperson did not comment further regarding the allegations of the demonstrators.

Laila Erica Drew, who plays Phyllis Terrell, the daughter of Black activist Mary Church Terrell, posted a response to the protest on her personal social media. “Since we wanna talk about erasure!” Drew wrote. “Thanks for trying to erase the work I do in this show. 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.”

This is the second time in recent months that a protest took place during a performance. In March, demonstrators interrupted “An Enemy of the People” on Broadway.  

“Suffs” earned six 2024 Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score Written for the Theater. It is produced by Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Malala Yousafzai are co-producers.