Tony Award-winner accused of sexual assault at Venice Theatre
VENICE (FOX 13) - A Tony Award-winning Broadway star is accused of sexually assaulting multiple actresses at a Sarasota County community theater.
Ben Vereen issued an apology today, while the venue says it’s reviewing its sexual harassment policies.
He’s an actor, dancer, and singer, but now several women say 71-year-old Ben Vereen sexually harassed them.
The alleged incidents happened during a production of "Hair" at the Venice Theater back in 2015.
Two years later, in November, one of the performers in the show, Kaitlyn Terpstra, posted on her Facebook wall that Vereen “…kissed me after I said no…”
The Sarasota native tells FOX 13 News that Vereen was the director, and he lured her to his local rental home for private rehearsals, then convinced her to undress.
Several other cast members also report inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.
In a statement posted on his Twitter page, Vereen does not deny the accusations:
“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. 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. So I am not going to make any excuses because they 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.”
FOX 13 reached out to the Venice Theater, and no one was available to talk on-camera Friday, but the Executive Director issued this statement:
“As a community theatre, Venice Theatre prides itself as a safe place to learn, work, and perform. We have learned recently that during our 2015 production of Hair, more than one female cast member was asked to join Mr. Vereen at his residence. Some of those visits resulted in compromising situations for at least two of the actresses.
While we were aware of an altercation between Ben Vereen and Ms. Terpstra, we have now learned of additional situations.
We are working to strengthen our sexual harassment policies and procedures, including reporting of them, to prevent any future occurrences.”