Dave Chappelle declines having alma mater name theater after him following backlash
On Monday, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. held a dedication ceremony for a theater it was naming in honor of noted alumnus Dave Chappelle. It didn't go as planned.
The school announced last year that it would dedicate a student theater to Chappelle, but during the dedication ceremony the comedian revealed it will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression, as first reported by The Washington Post.
"Chappelle was a theatre student at Duke Ellington and that theater is his home," reps for the school said in a statement. "He wanted to pay homage to a place that nurtured his talent and helped him learn that sky's the limit when you pursue your dreams and stay true to yourself as an artist. He wanted students for generations to come to know that artistic freedom is a human right, and to uplift conversations around creative expression and artistic responsibility. The theater for Artistic Freedom and Creative Expression is a symbol of hope so Ellington's young artists can continue to have challenging conversations needed to change the world."
Reps for Chappelle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The ceremony was postponed last November in light of controversy surrounding Chappelle's Netflix stand-up special The Closer, which has been criticized as transphobic. Some Ellington students voiced their concerns when the celeb visited their campus, with a few even exchanging barbs with Chappelle from the audience.
A digital flyer for the ceremony shared on the school's Facebook page on Sunday promised to celebrate the naming of what would have become the Dave Chappelle Theatre. He didn't refuse the dedication, a source close to the situation clarifies to EW. Chappelle didn't want the naming to cause a distraction for the students. He said as much at Monday's event.
Chappelle reportedly explained that he felt the criticism was not productive nor was it about his work. He added that the feedback "sincerely" hurt him.
"But the Ellington family is my family," Chappelle said.
Netflix, meanwhile, is staying in the Chappelle business. The streaming studio recently ordered four new comedy specials, each featuring comedians handpicked by Chappelle.