Protests Demand 'West Side Story' Actor Be Dismissed

Tuesday February 18, 2020

Protestors have picketed outside the Broadway revival of "West Side Story" on three occasions, taking issue with the casting of actor Amar Ramasar (who plays Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks) and demanding his dismissal.

The reason? Ramasar "was one of three men fired in 2018 from New York City Ballet after dancer Alexandra Waterbury accused them of sharing sexually explicit photos of her and another female dancer (Alexa Maxwell) without the women's consent. Ramasar was later reinstated following a union arbitration and continues to be a member of the ballet company," writes Deadline in a report published this month.

"The initial allegations were made in a lawsuit filed by Waterbury in which she accused her former boyfriend, dancer Chase Finlay, of sending sexually explicit photos of her to Ramasar and another male dancer. Ramasar, according to the suit, then sent a photo of his girlfriend (Maxwell), also a dancer, to Finlay. (The lawsuit, seeking damages, is ongoing.)," Deadline continues.

An additional protest is scheduled, according to Playbill, on February 20.

The protests continue even as Maxwell, who is Ramasar girlfriend and whose picture he allegedly shared, disavows the protests. In a statement released on January 31, Maxwell said, "I am not a victim in this and no longer wish for my truth to be misrepresented. It is not my mission to diminish the feelings of Alexandra's but I want to bring to light some facts that have been misrepresented across multiple platforms," reports Deadline.

Maxwell's statement — posted on her Instagram account — goes on to say that the "only photograph that was shared by Amar was of me, his girlfriend of nearly five years. I knew about the photos of me when they were taken, and while sharing it privately with a close friend was a misstep in judgment, Amar immediately told me when he sent them to Chase and his sincerest regrets have led us to today, where we reside together and are building a loving and happy relationship. The incident was a personal matter between me and Amar, and I am okay with what happened."

"Ramasar was formally dismissed from NYCB in September 2018 after dancer Alexandra Waterbury filed a lawsuit against the company and her former boyfriend, Chase Finlay (another principal dancer who had since resigned)," writes Playbill. "The suit alleged that Finlay, along with Ramasar and Catazaro, exchanged explicit photos of Waterbury and other female dancers without their knowledge and consent. The firing was challenged by the American Guild of Musical Artists. The resulting arbitration ended in Ramasar's reinstatement."

Producers Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, and David Geffen stand behind Ramasar. They released the following statement:

The management of West Side Story stands, as it always has stood, with Amar Ramasar. While we support the right of assembly enjoyed by the protestors, the alleged incident took place in a different workplace --- the New York City Ballet --- which has no affiliation of any kind with West Side Story, and the dispute in question has been both fully adjudicated and definitively concluded according to the specific rules of that workplace, as mandated by the union that represents the parties involved in that incident. Mr. Ramasar is a principal dancer in good standing at the New York City Ballet. He is also a member in good standing of both AGMA (representing the company of NYCB) and Actors' Equity Association (representing the company of West Side Story).

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 West Side Story Company does not as a practice terminate employees without cause. There is no cause here. The West Side Story Company's relationship to Mr. Ramasar is completely private to that company and exists solely between Mr. Ramasar and his fellow company members. He is a valued colleague who was hired to play a principal role in this production, which he is doing brilliantly, and which he will continue to do for the entire unabated length of his agreement.

Actors Equity released the following statement:

As is customary, Actors' Equity had no awareness of casting decisions for West Side Story before the cast was publicly announced. Equity did not communicate 'support' to the employer about any members of the company as part of the hiring process. Equity's role is to ensure that all members know they have a right to a safe and harassment-free workplace and that Equity will hold employers to their legal obligation to maintain a safe and harassment-free environment. That is why Equity has also launched a hotline that members can use to report harassment or unsafe working conditions confidentially.

Said to be a 21st century imagining of the classic musical, which uses extensive video design, "West Side Story" has been selling out during previews. Last week it grossed $1,521,431.00.

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