Broadway veteran and Roots actor Ben Vereen is the newest male celebrity to be accused of sexual harassment and assault.
But unlike most other men, Vereen has issued an apology for his alleged misconduct that included unwanted kissing, inviting women to join him naked in his hot tub and making demeaning and degrading comments, Billboard reported.
“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.” Vereen added that his intention was “to create an environment that replicated the themes of that musical during the rehearsal process” and he hoped the women accepted his “sincere apology.”
This apology comes a day after the New York Daily News reported that several actresses came forward with accusations against the Tony winner for his behavior they endured during the musical Hair in Florida three years ago.
None of the allegations were reported to Venice Police in Sarasota County, USA Today noted. That, and the people who worked at the theater claim they didn’t know anything about the allegations either.
“As a community theatre, Venice Theatre prides itself as a safe place to learn, work, and perform,” the theater’s executive director Murray Chase wrote in a statement.
“We are working to strengthen our sexual harassment policies and procedures, including reporting of them, to prevent any future occurrences.”
The women who came forward claim that Vereen tried to manipulate them by saying that because Hair is a musical about sexual freedom, they had to let go of their own inhibitions to play the part well.
“He gave this whole speech about how nudity was not inherently sexual,” Kaitlyn Terpstra told The Daily News. “He made me feel that if I wasn’t mature enough to understand that, I wasn’t mature enough to be in Hair.”
At one point, she said, he put her on his lap while she was crying and she could feel his erection. She said he also asked her to perform oral sex and she agreed, feeling “confused,” she said.
“I just think at the time, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I didn’t want to do it, but I was intimidated and scared. He was being very intense and angry. He seemed very angry and offended.”