Protests, Statements Raise Controversy Over WEST SIDE STORY Casting of Amar Ramasar
Since principal casting was announced last July for the Ivo van Hove-directed Broadway revival of West Side Story, many individuals in and around the theatrical community have voiced public concerns about the actor playing the role of Bernardo, Amar Ramasar.
In 2018, Ramasar was simultaneously playing Jigger Craigin in the Broadway revival of CAROUSEL and serving as a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. However, during his run in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, Ramasar and a fellow dancer were fired from NYCB after dancer Alexandra Waterbury had filed a lawsuit against the company and the individuals involved.
In addition to Ramasar and Catazaro, dancer Chase Finlay - who had been in a relationship with Waterbury - and NYCB patron Jared Longhitano were also named in the suit. Finlay had already left the ballet company at the time of the dismissals.
In response to the lawsuit, it was learned that Finlay had shared intimate and explicit photos and videos of Waterbury without her consent or knowledge with the other individuals. Via materials submitted as part of the lawsuit and shared on social media, Waterbury asserts that the other individuals encouraged Finlay to share more, reciprocated with images and videos of their own, and used vulgar and demeaning language to describe and discuss woman in the photos and in the ballet company at large.
Following a lengthy process, an arbitrator determined that NYCB was not within its rights to fire the dancers, as their actions were not related to their employment; therefore, the dancers must be allowed to return. Ramasar, who had since been dancing with companies in Europe, was the only one who elected to rejoin the NYCB.
Last year when the WEST SIDE STORY casting was announced, individuals began speaking up again online about Ramasar's continued employment, despite any public statements of contrition for his involvement in the picture-sharing scandal. However, others have pointed out that while Waterbury's suit is still pending, he has likely been advised by counsel to refrain from speaking on the matter. The lawyers for all of the men involved have disputed specific facts in Waterbury's complaint.
As previews began in December, Waterbury posted a lengthy social media message in which she spoke out against Ramasar's involvement in the show, and said that his casting did not mean that he had done nothing wrong. She compares the handling of the case by the New York City District Attorney's Office to that of Harvey Weinstein. She also mentions that she looks forward to having her lawsuit heard in court.
As the opening of WEST SIDE STORY approaches, college student Megan Rabin started a change.org petition asking for the show's producers to remove Ramasar from the cast, and a group has begun to hold regular weekly protests outside of the show's home at the Broadway Theatre.
and that's called a glow up pic.twitter.com/bFqFbVQRBX- West Side Story Protest (@wssprotest) February 1, 2020
Waterbury attended Friday, Jan. 31's protest, and in a social media post, said, "Talent is not an excuse or a justification for sexual assault or misogynistic slander."
Just a few hours before last week's protest, Ramasar's long-time girlfriend Alexa Maxwell released a statement in which she acknowledges that Ramasar shared an explicit photo of her without her permission, but that it was "a personal matter between me and Amar; and I am okay with what happened." The two currently live together and remain in a relationship.
"I am not a victim in this and no longer wish for my truth to be misrepresented," Maxwell said. "It is not my mission to diminish the feelings of Alexandra's (sic) but want to bring to light some facts that have been misrepresented across multiple platforms."
Maxwell says, "And while Alexandra in her lawsuit makes allegations about group texts in which men spoke of women in horrible terms, Amar was not a participant in those group texts, and Alexandra does not allege that he was."
While in her statement, Maxwell does not dismiss Waterbury's anger and feelings of violation, she does believe that for many, those feelings are being misdirected toward Ramasar, who, she feels is an ancillary figure in the situation.
WEST SIDE STORY's producer Scott Rudin told the New York Times, "[Ramasar] has more than earned our trust ... and the WEST SIDE STORY company stands with him." Rudin was also the lead producer on CAROUSEL, Ramasar's Broadway debut.
However, last month, OnStage Blog reported that an unnamed member of the WEST SIDE STORY company contacted the publication and said that they support those speaking out against Ramasar's casting, that they support Waterbury, and that they share the anger being expressed about the situation.
WEST SIDE STORY's opening night is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, and the next protest is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7 outside of the Broadway Theatre at 7 p.m. ET.
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