Chappelle Has Surprise News at Theater Dedication

Theater at his alma mater, Duke Ellington School, won't be named after him after all
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2022 9:50 AM CDT
Theater Was to Be Named for Dave Chappelle. Then, a Curveball
Dave Chappelle unveils a sign for the Theatre for Artistic Freedom and Expression during a dedication ceremony honoring the comedian and actor, and to raise funds to support the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Just before Dave Chappelle's most recent Netflix special dropped, his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, announced its theater would be named for the comedian, who pledged to donate $100,000 to teachers' wages. It's "the most significant honor of my life," Chappelle said in October, per the Washington Post. And he's just given it up. At Monday's dedication ceremony—delayed from November after Ellington students and others argued The Closer special, in which Chappelle expresses rigid views on gender and compares trans genitals to plant-based meat substitutes, is transphobic—Chappelle surprised the audience by announcing that the theater would instead be named the Theatre for Artistic Freedom and Expression in response to the criticism.

Those students "sincerely hurt me," Chappelle told the audience, per USA Today. While they "said everything about gender ... they didn't say anything about art." He added that the media ignored "the nuance of art" in labeling The Closer as transphobic—a move he compared to reporting that a rabbit had shot a man in the face while leaving out that this happened in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, per Deadline. As Evan Gerstmann writes at Forbes, The Closer also included "a rich portrait" of trans comedian Daphne Dorman, who once opened Chappelle's act in San Francisco. "The more you say I can't say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it," which "has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression," he said. He received a standing ovation, USA Today reports. (More Dave Chappelle stories.)

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