Actors’ Equity is blasting an audience member who secretly videotaped Jesse Williams’ nude scene while performing in Take Me Out at the Second Stage Theater in NYC and then released it on Twitter. Equity called it an act of “sexual harassment and an appalling breach of consent.”
The NYC theater, which collects audience members’ cell phones and keeps them locked away during performances, called the breach “highly objectionable,” saying it can lead to “severe legal consequences.” Williams received a Tony nomination for his role Monday, and he was trending on Twitter for much of the day.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the creation and distribution of photographs and videos of our members during a nude scene,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “As actors, we regularly agree to be vulnerable onstage in order to tell difficult and challenging stories. This does not mean that we agree to have those vulnerable moments widely shared by anyone who feels like sneaking a recording device into the theater. Whoever did this knew not only that they were filming actors without their consent, but also that they were explicitly violating the theater’s prohibition on recording and distribution.
“At every performance, there is a mutual understanding between the audience and the performers that we are sharing an experience limited to this time and place; that trust makes it possible for us to be exposed both emotionally and physically,” Shindle added. “Trampling on this agreement by capturing and distributing these photographs and videos is both sexual harassment and an appalling breach of consent. It is a violation that impedes our collective ability to tell stories with boldness and bravery.”
Second Stage Theater said it “has worked to ensure the privacy of the Take Me Out company by creating a phone-free space with locked phone cases at all performances. We are appalled that this policy has been violated and unauthorized footage of our acting company has been posted. It is deeply unfortunate that one audience member chose to disrespect the production, their fellow audience members and, most importantly, the cast in this manner. Taking naked pictures of anyone without their consent is highly objectionable and can have severe legal consequences. Posting it on the internet is a gross and unacceptable violation of trust between the actor and audience forged in the theatre community. We are actively pursuing takedown requests and ask that no one participates in the distribution of these images. Second Stage is also adding additional staff at the theater to enforce the policy.”