Skip to main content

Dave Chappelle Turns Down Namesake HS Theater, Selects 'Artistic Freedom and Expression' Instead

ES Staff  |  Celebs News & Power Moves

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts's student theater will no longer be named after the Emmy Award-winning actor. Chappelle stated. its new name will be the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression, reports The Washington Post.

No one knows when the decision was made to use the new name instead. N either the school nor Chappelle's representatives has commented on the change.

The ceremony was moved from November because of the growing backlash to Chappelle's offensive jokes and other comments in his controversial Netflix special "The Closer." Duke Ellington is a free, public magnet school in Washington, D.C., where most of the students are Black. The students there were also worried about honoring the famous alumnus at his old school.

The comedian, who is 48 years old, called the theater's renaming "the most meaningful honor of my life." According to the Post, he told the crowd at Monday's event that he thought the criticism of him was unfair and not about his work.

According to a tweet by Post columnist Josh Rogin, the outspoken comedian said, "You can't report on an artist's work and leave out the artistic nuance."

No matter what some people say, "The Closer" is still one of the most watched Netflix specials. When you tell me I can't say anything, I want to say it even more. I'm afraid to say that what you say has nothing to do with it. Chappelle says that the main thing is that I can express myself creatively.

He said that the criticism "sincerely" hurt him, but he also didn't want a theater named after him to keep students from thinking about how important their art is.

The "A Star Is Born" and "Chappelle's Show" star said, "I can't stand the idea that my name will be used to help someone else feel oppressed."

Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who started the theater, wanted it to be called the Dave Chappelle Theater. Chappelle said in November that he did accept the medal, even though it wasn't his "idea, intention, or desire" to do so.

Even though there was pushback, the school has stuck to its plan to change the name of the space. At the time, it was said that it was okay because "art is a free and open way to reflect on and question society."

Some of the arguments made by Ellington students are basically the same as those being made in Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country. In December, the school said that the different opinions expressed by students "represent differences in opinion across a wide range of socioeconomic criteria, such as class, race, and gender presentation."

In a statement released Monday before the event, the school said that its co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz "was a fierce believer in the power of the arts to change lives, and it was her hope that Chappelle would use his platform to bring more resources and attention to the school."

Monday's event, "The Excellence of Ellington: An Evening with Dave Chappelle," was the official start of the school's Million Dollar Challenge. Dave Chappelle also hosted the event. Organizers want to raise $2 million to pay for pre-professional arts training that is not covered by the school district's budget.

Before 2017, Chappelle gave the school one of his Emmys and said he would give the school $100,000.