Ben Vereen Accused of Sexual Assault During Production of HAIR
The Daily News is reporting that several actresses have accused Broadway veteran Ben Vereen.of sexual assault during a production of Hair he directed in Florida in 2015. The production ran at the Venice Theatre MainStage in Venice, Florida, from November 9, 2015 - December 13, 2015. The volunteer cast included Vereen's son, Aaron Vereen, who played Hud.
The women say that Vereen made physical advances such as unwanted kisses and hugs, as well as verbal abuse about the actresses' weight, sex appeal, and personal lives.
Two of the actresses said that Vereen brought them home for "private rehearsals" before sexually charged physical contact occured. The actresses were 22 and 23, respectively, and Vereen was 68.
Both actresses, one named Kaitlyn Terpstra, and the other choosing to go only by her first name, Kim, told similar stories, separately, before finding out that Vereen allegedly used the same lines to get both women to get in his hot tub in the nude. The women say that once in the hot tub, Vereen began asking them personal questions which then turned into sexual touching. Terpstra said that he pulled her onto his lap, and Kim said he asked her to perform oral sex on him. Kim also admitted to becoming involved in a relationship with Vereen, and recalled one night at Vereen's home when he began having sex with her while she was trying to sleep. When asked if it was okay she said "uh-huh," but she said that later she started crying and asked him to stop.
Several other actresses made reports of forced kissing and hugs, nudity, and sexual comments during the rehearsal process for Hair.
Vereen made a statement to the Daily News on Thursday where he did not deny the accusations and instead apologized.
"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. "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."
Vereen continued by saying, "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."
In a statement to The News, Executive Director Murray Chase said, "We are working to strengthen our sexual harassment policies and procedures, including the reporting of them, to prevent any future occurrences."
The theater's president Laura Kopple reached out to apologize to Terpstra in a letter, after Terpstra posted her story on Facebook. The theater also offered to pay for Terpstra and Kim to seek counseling.
Read more here.
Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Ben Vereen is known for his renowned performance in Bob Fosse's PIPPIN. Mr. Vereen's Broadway credits include Wicked, I'm Not Rappaport, Chicago, Hair, Fosse, Jelly's Last Jam, Jesus Christ Superstar, and A Christmas Carol. In 2010, Vereen completed a successful run in the world premiere of Fetch Clay, Make Man, directed by Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) at theMcCarter Theatre. Film: Idlewild, All That Jazz, Sweet Charity, Funny Lady (Golden Globe nomination), Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Once Upon a Forest. Television credits include the legendary television miniseries Roots, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (recurring), Grey's Anatomy (Prism Award), Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Hallmark's An Accidental Friendship (NAACP nomination), Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style, Ellis Island (Golden Globe Nomination), Anne Rice's Feast of All Saints, Zoobilee Zoo, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He recently co-starred in Paramount Studios' Top Five with Chris Rock.
A product of the 1960s peace movement, hippie counterculture and sexual revolution, Hair won the 1968 Tony Award and broke new ground in theatre by defining "rock musicals."