As protests of West Side Story cast member Amar Ramasar continue, Actors' Equity has released a statement regarding actor safety. The statement follows the publication of a New York Times article reporting that the production has hired a cybersecurity firm to address any concerns regarding safety and online harassment.
“Everyone at West Side Story should be able to go to work and perform feeling safe and protected in their workplace," Actors’ Equity Association Executive Director Mary McColl said. “Equity has been in communication with the general manager and the members of the show. As a union, Equity’s role is to ensure that our members are protected in the workplace and we take that responsibility very seriously. Equity will continue to hold all employers to their legal obligation to maintain a safe and harassment-free environment. I want all members, wherever they might work, to know that they can contact their business representative whenever there is any kind of problem in the workplace, or use the Equity hotline to anonymously report problems in their workplace.”
The statement and Times article come on the heels of regular protests of cast member Amar Ramasar outside the Broadway Theatre, where West Side Story will open February 20.
A principal dancer at New York City Ballet, Ramasar plays Bernardo in the contemporary staging from director Ivo van Hove. His casting was announced in July, three months after arbitration found that New York City Ballet had overstepped in dismissing Ramasar and fellow New York City Ballet dancer Zachary Catazaro following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Catazaro declined to rejoin, though Ramasar is back on NYCB's roster after receiving mandatory counseling.
The management released a statement in support of Ramasar last week in which it stated, "There is zero consideration being given to his potentially being terminated from this workplace, as there has been no transgression of any kind, ever, in this workplace."
The first protest took place January 24, with another scheduled for opening night. Additionally, an online petition calling for Ramasar's dismissal, created by college student Megan Rabin (Ms. Rabin has no known affiliation with the companies or parties involved), has amassed over 48,000 signatures since December.