The student theater at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. is getting a new name. As announced by the comedian himself on Monday night, however, the theater will not be named after school alum Dave Chappelle.
As the Washington Post first reported, Chappelle made the announcement during an appearance at a dedication ceremony, revealing the theater in question will be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. Initial word of the then-impending renaming, as previously reported, came amid discussions surrounding Chappelle’s Netflix special The Closer, which many (including students at Duke Ellington) called out for being transphobic.
Chappelle addressed this criticism on Monday, per Washington Post columnist and CNN analyst Josh Rogin, claiming The Closer was reported on without “artistic nuance” and comparing the special’s criticism to the defacement of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting.
In a statement shared last November in response to what the school said were “inaccurate” viral stories that were “devoid of context,” a Duke Ellington School of the Arts rep said it was aiming to turn the larger debate into a teachable moment for its students.
“Our purpose is not to form a uniformity of viewpoints, but to help instill genuine, respectful curiosity in perspectives that challenge one’s own,” the school said at the time. “The debates among some Ellington students largely mirror those that exist across Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole.”
As Chappelle’s defenses of the material in question have continued, so too has the criticism, including from several fellow comedians. Jerrod Carmichael, for example, recently spoke with GQ Hype for an interview during which he detailed the disappointment this era of Chappelle has brought to some longtime fans.
“Chappelle, do you know what comes up when you Google your name, bro? That’s the legacy?” Carmichael said. “Your legacy is a bunch of opinions on trans shit? It’s an odd hill to die on.”