Broadway legend Ben Vereen is the latest star to be accused of sexual assault after several women told the New York Daily News that the theater legend took advantage of them while directing a production of Hair.
The series of assaults allegedly happened while Vereen, who was a cast member during the show's original Broadway run, held auditions for a new Hair performance at Venice Theatre outside of Tampa, FL in 2015.
During that time, the aspiring actresses said they were invited to Tony Award-winning actor's home for "private rehearsals," but instead were met with berating and disgust when they questioned why they should get naked or shied away from his erect penis.
“He gave this whole speech about how nudity was not inherently sexual,” said Kaitlyn Terpstra, one of the actresses Vereen allegedly assaulted. “He made me feel that if I wasn't mature enough to understand that, I wasn’t mature enough to be in Hair.” Terpestra was 22 years old at the time.
Another woman who only shared her first name, Kim, spoke on how Vereen asked her to perform oral sex on him.
“I just think at the time, I didn't feel like I had a choice,” said Kim, who at the time was 23. “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. I had seen him behave this way toward others [in the cast].”
The New York Daily News reports that Vereen didn't deny the accusations when they called him for comment. He also issued an apology.
“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 the only thing that matters here is acknowledging and apologizing for the effects of my conduct on the lives of these women,” read Vereen's statement. “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.”
Venice Theatre has since apologized as well and offered to pay for the women to receive therapy sessions.
While Kim took the theater up on their offer, she's still leery about Vereen's apology. “It’s nice, but I’m not sure I believe it,” she said of Vereen's statement. “Those words aren’t going to take back everything he did.”
Kim also shared that she confronted him during a phone conversation in 2015 but “he was like, ‘How dare you say that.’”
There were other instances where Vereen allegedly forced a kiss on actresses or asked them lewd questions like “Do you want to have sex with me?” Including Terpstra and Kim, four actresses have accused Vereen of sexual assault. Venice Theatre is still in the process of reaching out to the rest of the 2015 production team.
In addition to starring in Hair and countless other Broadway classics including Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin, Vereen also guest-starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Will's dad Lou Smith in the gut-wrenching episode “Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse” and appeared in OutKast’s 2006 film Idlewild.