When Ben Vereen held auditions for “Hair” at a neighborhood theatre in Florida in 2015, the Tony winner stated he needed to interrupt new floor with the rock musical.
However in a sickening twist, a number of younger actresses solid within the present declare the Broadway legend’s sexually abusive habits practically broke them.
The ladies — a part of the Venice Theatre manufacturing exterior of Tampa — say Vereen pressured undesirable kisses, hugged them aggressively, stripped bare throughout an appearing train and made degrading feedback about their weight, intercourse enchantment and private lives.
Two of the actresses instructed the Each day Information that Vereen lured them to his Florida rental residence on separate events in September 2015 beneath the guise of “non-public rehearsals.” Then he pressed his erect penis into their legs with out warning.
Kaitlyn Terpstra was 22 years outdated on the time. The opposite actress, who requested to be recognized by solely her first title, Kim, was 23 years outdated.
Vereen was weeks shy of his 69th birthday.
In a prolonged assertion to the Each day Information Thursday, Vereen didn’t deny the accusations.
“I wish to apologize on to the feminine solid members of the musical ‘Hair’ for my inappropriate conduct once I directed the manufacturing in 2015,” he stated.
The ladies, who first supplied statements to Chris Peterson of the weblog OnStage earlier than chatting with The Information, stated they’d no thought till not too long ago that Vereen used the identical strains on each of them to get them bare in his scorching tub.
“He gave this complete speech about how nudity was not inherently sexual. ‘That’s not what it’s about.’ He made me really feel that if I wasn’t mature sufficient to grasp that, I wasn’t mature sufficient to be in ‘Hair,’” Terpstra instructed The Information.
“He principally instructed each of us, ‘Recover from your self. Nudity doesn’t should be sexual.’ If we requested questions or hesitated, we had been those making it bizarre,” Kim stated.
The ladies stated as soon as they received into the new tub, Vereen started breaking them down with probing private questions allegedly aimed toward reaching inventive breakthroughs. This was the identical method he used throughout rehearsals when he made completely different solid members, normally ladies, sit within the heart of a circle and focus on their emotional triggers.
“He was appearing as my mentor, asking me about my dad and mom, then that very same night time, he put me on his lap whereas I used to be crying, and I felt his erection,” Terpstra recalled.
“He requested me, ‘Really feel that?’ It was terrifying. I stated, ‘Really feel what?’ I needed to behave like I did not. I pushed myself off with fun. Then later, he requested, ‘Do you assume I wish to f–k you?’ I stated ‘Sure,’ and he received offended. He stated, ‘Properly, I do not, and that is unlucky.’ He made me really feel like I had my thoughts within the gutter.”
Kim stated throughout her time within the scorching tub, issues went even additional. He requested her to carry out oral intercourse on him. She passively obliged, feeling “confused,” she stated.
“I simply assume on the time, I did not really feel like I had a alternative. I did not wish to do it, however I used to be intimidated and scared. He was being very intense and offended. He appeared very offended and offended. I had seen him behave this fashion towards others within the tribe throughout circle,” she instructed The Information.
“I simply felt powerless as a result of I assumed I actually wanted his assist and steerage. And when he stated nudity does not should be sexual, I used to be like, ‘OK, perhaps this isn’t even sexual,’ ” she stated.
“Now I perceive it was an influence play. It was so calculated. It was like we had been putty in his fingers.”
In his assertion, Vereen stated he gained new perspective on his habits within the final two years.
“Whereas it was my intention to create an surroundings that replicated the themes of that musical throughout the rehearsal course of, I’ve since come to grasp that it’s my conduct, not my intentions, that are related right here. So I’m not going to make any excuses as a result of the one factor that issues right here is acknowledging and apologizing for the consequences of my conduct on the lives of those ladies,” he stated.
“Going ahead, my having come to phrases with my previous conduct will inform all my future interactions not solely with ladies, however with all people. I hope these ladies will discover it of their hearts to just accept my honest apology and forgive me,” his assertion learn.
The musical “Hair” first debuted in 1967 and portrayed the hippie tradition and sexual revolution of the 1960s. Its nude scene was a sensation.
Solid members say Vereen, who performed Claude within the authentic musical from 1968 to 1972, used the inventive boundaries of the present to reap the benefits of the star-struck, volunteer solid at Venice Theatre.
Terpstra stated she was requested to signal non-disclosure agreements, despite the fact that she didn’t have a lawyer current, and that the doc propped up Vereen’s aura of energy.
The Broadway icon gained extra affect over the group together with his repeated claims he needed to take their little manufacturing on the street, Kim stated.
The prospect of a touring present stoked the solid members’ hopes they may earn their extremely sought-after Actors’ Fairness Affiliation playing cards, she defined. The elite union supplies every thing from medical insurance to a assured minimal wage and is commonly considered as a springboard to knowledgeable appearing profession.
“He talked about all of us getting our Fairness playing cards. He stated if we went on tour, we might all get our playing cards,” Kim instructed The Information. “There have been numerous these sorts of guarantees. He was portray superb footage.”
Kim willingly admitted she grew to become concerned in a relationship with Vereen, saying she satisfied herself it was extra non secular than sexual. She recalled being at Vereen’s residence one night time attempting to sleep when he began to have intercourse along with her. He requested if it was OK, and he or she gave a resigned “uh-huh” response, she recalled.
Ultimately, she began crying and requested him to cease, she stated.
“You stated it was OK,” he allegedly scolded her. based on Kim.
A 3rd actress, Ariella Pizarro, stated Vereen pressed himself towards her one night time as he hugged her goodbye and later texted her, “Yo (sic) felt so good tonight.”
The Information obtained a replica of the textual content message despatched by Vereen and confirmed the quantity was listed in his title.
Pizarro stated Vereen additionally randomly kissed her on the lips within the first few weeks of rehearsals, when she was 22 years outdated.
“We had been in a music rehearsal, and he was simply strolling round, after which he walked up and kissed me on the lips. It was so bizarre. All of us knew ‘Hair’ was going to be a unique form of manufacturing, like within the 60s, however he did not even ask first. He simply kissed me. I used to be shocked, for positive,” Pizarro stated.
“He didn’t shove his tongue down my throat, however it gave me an uneasy feeling. Then he moved on. I did not know what to do,” she stated. “From that time on, I saved myself at arm’s size with Ben.”
An actress who additionally requested to be recognized by solely her first title, Vera, stated she, too, was bombarded with hugs and an amazing invasion of house by Vereen.
Vera, who was 27 throughout “Hair,” stated in an announcement first shared with the weblog OnStage that she went to Vereen’s rental residence for a rehearsal with two male solid members however ended up the final to go away.
“(Vereen) proceeded to wrap his arms round me and lay me down on the sofa. I used to be shocked. I had by no means been in a state of affairs like that earlier than,” she stated within the assertion she additionally shared with The Information. “He saved whispering issues into my ear like ‘chill out’ and ‘Give your self to me.’ After the preliminary shock wore off I finished his advances. He was by no means nice to me once more.”
A number of solid members additionally recalled one significantly uncomfortable day after they needed to strip for a rehearsal train associated to the present’s massive nude scene. Vereen determined he must also get bare, they stated.
Stars accused of sexual harassment and assault
“It was uncomfortable, to say the least,” Pizarro stated.
Kim recalled being “shocked” in any respect the scars on Vereen’s chest and stomach. He was in a horrible accident in 1992 the place he crashed his Corvette right into a tree in Malibu, Calif. Later that day, he was struck by an SUV pushed by music producer David Foster on the Pacific Coast Freeway and thrown 130 toes.
Kim stated after Vereen offered himself bare to the group, he made a degree of whispering one thing to her earlier than she left.
“Do you wish to have intercourse with me?” he allegedly requested, based on Kim.
Shocked, Kim requested him to repeat himself.
“Oh, nothing,” he responded with a giggle, she recalled.
In a sequence of statements to The Information, Venice Theatre officers stated they lastly grew to become conscious of the total extent of the allegations towards Vereen after Terpstra posted about her expertise on Fb in November.
The theater tried to contact each member of the 32-person “Hair” solid in the previous couple of months and reached all however about six, a spokeswoman stated.
“We have now realized not too long ago that in our 2015 manufacturing of ‘Hair,’ multiple feminine solid member was requested to hitch Mr. Vereen at his residence. A few of these visits resulted in compromising conditions for a minimum of two of the actresses,” Govt Director Murray Chase stated in an announcement to The Information.
“We’re working to strengthen our sexual harassment insurance policies and procedures, together with the reporting of them, to stop any future occurrences,” he stated.
Pizarro stated the theater invited her to talk to the board about her expertise with Vereen, which she plans to do sooner or later.
Terpstra stated her closing breaking level occurred over the past night time of rehearsal in November 2015 when the solid was required to placed on robes in preparation for the massive nude scene.
“(My gown) was very brief. I had mine on, I used to be one of many final ones to seize a gown, and he stated in entrance of a number of members of the solid, ‘Yours could be very brief. Everybody will see your cooter, not that everybody hasn’t seen it anyway.’ I received actually mad,” she recalled.
Later, throughout the warmup, Vereen requested if she had one thing to say to him, and he or she shouted, “Do not ever flirt with me once more!” she recalled.
“Flirt with you? Why would anybody wish to flirt with you?” he allegedly responded, she stated.
Vereen motioned her to speak to him within the hallway, she stated, and it was there the 2 received in a heated argument.
“He backed me towards the wall. I began to stroll away and he grabbed my arm so arduous, it made a slapping noise,” she recalled, including that she shouted “don’t f–king contact me.”
She stated Chase needed to step in, strolling along with her exterior and listening as she sobbed. Terpstra stated she’s undecided precisely what she instructed him, however she thinks she talked about a minimum of one pressured kiss. She stated Chase later sat in on the ultimate costume rehearsal, however Vereen was not banned from the constructing.
Chase instructed The Information he remembered the hallway incident however thought it was remoted.
“Whereas we had been conscious of an altercation between Ben Vereen and Ms. Terpstra, now we have now realized of further conditions,” he stated.
Terpstra stated she was moved to talk up on Fb by the scores of ladies who stepped ahead to say Harvey Weinstein used his energy as a film business gatekeeper to prey on younger actresses, she stated.
Fellow solid member Zach Wasson responded to her put up in November, saying he clearly recalled Vereen’s inappropriate remedy of ladies within the present.
“Throughout warmups … he would meander by means of the group, completely ignoring the lads, however groping and kissing on the ladies, ogling their our bodies in a extremely apparent approach. The ladies who demurred would inevitably be humiliated within the circle later,” he wrote.
One other solid member, Brian Finnerty, recalled the ultimate blow-up between Vereen and Terpstra, saying the whole rehearsal froze because the screams bellowed from the corridor. He witnessed Chase get between them that night time, he stated.
“‘Do not f–king contact me!’ and ‘I stated get off!’ had been feedback I heard from Terpstra towards Vereen as he was attempting to place his fingers on her,” Finnerty stated in an announcement to The Information.
Across the time Terpstra shared her story on-line, Chase and the theater’s president Laura Kopple reached out to apologize in a letter, she stated.
“At the start, our employees and board wish to say, unreservedly, that we’re really sorry what occurred to you with Ben Vereen,” the signed letter shared with The Information learn.
“We’re deeply sorry for not really realizing the extent of what occurred, or the affect of his actions,” it continued. “We’re deeply sorry for not responding in the best way we should always have.”
The theater additionally provided to pay for Terpstra to hunt counseling.
Each Terpstra and Kim stated their expertise on “Hair” had lasting results. Neither has acted in a manufacturing since. Terpstra stated she moved to New York pondering she would rediscover her lifelong ardour, however she gravitated to burlesque as a substitute, saying it provides her full inventive management.
“Performing was a part of my id since I used to be eight. So perhaps it’s a reasonably large deal. But when I anticipate I’m going to should work round folks attempting to abuse me, in fact I’ll discover it much less interesting,” she defined.
Kim stated the thought of auditioning makes her consider Vereen. After she ended their relationship over the telephone as soon as the manufacturing ended, she went to dwell on a vegan farm in Hawaii to work on “loving’ herself once more, she stated. Later, she returned to a job at Venice Theatre to “re-define that house,” she stated.
“This summer season I lower my hair actually brief, nearly pixie lower size,” she stated. “I did it as a symbolic act of transferring on from ‘Hair’ and from Ben Vereen, beginning recent.”
She was nonetheless at Venice when Terpstra started posting about Vereen on Fb. “It was deeply upsetting,” she stated. “I began to really feel utterly unhinged.”
Kim stated she lastly mustered the braveness to inform Chase what occurred. She stated he apologized and stated the theatre would pay for her to see a therapist as effectively. It was her first expertise with counseling, and he or she went twice earlier than transferring to New York within the final two months.
“I’m actually grateful he provided that,” she stated.
Kim was adamant Vereen ought to by no means be allowed to work with younger folks once more. He tore down her vanity and he or she’s been attempting to construct it again up, she stated.
When she heard that Vereen’s assertion to The Information included an apology, she wasn’t satisfied it was real.
“It’s good, however I’m undecided I imagine it. These phrases aren’t going to take again every thing he did. I confronted him in that final telephone dialog (in 2015), and he was like, ‘How dare you say that,’” she recalled.
“I’m simply comfortable he truly apologized and did not deny it,” Pizarro instructed The Information.