Ben Vereen has apologized for “inappropriate conduct” after multiple women came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against him.
Several actresses from the Venice Theatre production outside of Tampa — where the Broadway legend, 71, held auditions in 2015 for Hair — have claimed he used sexually abusive behavior toward them. According to a report by the New York Daily News published on Friday, January 5, Vereen made degrading comments to them regarding their weight and sex appeal, forced unwanted sexual advances on them, and stripped naked during an acting exercise.
Following the claims, Vereen responded in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter the same day. “I would like to apologize directly to the female cast members of the musical ‘Hair’ for my inappropriate conduct when I directed the production in 2015,” he said.
“While it was my intention to create an environment that replicated the themes of that musical during the rehearsal process, I have since come to understand that it is my conduct, not my intentions, which are relevant here,” he continued. “So I am not going to make any excuses because the only thing that matters here is acknowledging and apologizing for the effects of my conduct on the lives of these women. Going forward, my having come to terms with my past conduct will inform all my future interactions not only with women, but with all individuals. I hope these women will find it in their hearts to accept my sincere apology and forgive me.”
— Ben Vereen (@BenVereen) January 5, 2018
The women — who initially spoke out in statements to Chris Peterson of the blog OnStage — detailed the alleged incidents in-depth to the Daily News, claiming he had them feeling “powerless” and used the “artistic boundaries” of the show to take advantage of them.
Two actresses recalled being lured to Vereen’s rental house in September 2015, disguised as “private rehearsals,” where he “pressed his erect penis into their legs without warning.”
The Venice Theatre Company addressed the situation in a statement to USA Today. “As a community theatre, Venice Theatre prides itself as a safe place to learn, work, and perform,” Murray Chase, executive director of the theatre, said. “We are working to strengthen our sexual harassment policies and procedures, including reporting of them, to prevent any future occurrences.”