A group of protesters outside Broadway’s West Side Story Friday night continued to call for the dismissal of a cast member who in 2018 shared a sexually explicit photo of his girlfriend when both were members of New York City Ballet. The protest was carried out even after the woman depicted in the photo disavowed the calls for his firing and said the actor – her boyfriend of five years – was being unfairly targeted.
Amar Ramasar, who plays Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang in West Side Story, 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 without the women’s consent. Ramasar was later reinstated following a union arbitration and continues to be a member of the ballet company.
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, also a dancer, to Finlay. (The lawsuit, seeking damages, is ongoing.)
Yesterday, Ramasar’s girlfriend depicted in the photo came forward to condemn the West Side Story protests, which have largely involved a social media campaign, an online petition and some picketing outside the theater. In a statement released to news organizations before last night’s protest – the second in recent weeks – Ramasar’s girlfriend Alexa 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.”
Maxwell’s statement – posted on her Instagram account (see it below) – 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.”
“With a demonstration planned for this evening in front of the Broadway Theater to protest Amar’s role in the current production of West Side Story, I want to share my story so that the public is clear,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell, in her statement, pointedly disputes various claims made against Ramasar: “On social media, Alexandra and other people out there have recklessly tossed around phrases like ‘rapist,’ ‘sexual predator,’ and ‘pedophile’ when referring to Amar. Amar never raped anyone — and Alexandra in her lawsuit does not allege that he did. Amar is not a sexual predator — and Alexandra in her lawsuit does not allege that he is. And Amar is no pedophile — and Alexandra in her lawsuit does not allege anything like that. And while Alexandra in her lawsuit makes allegations about group texts in which men spoke of women in horrible terms, Amar was not a participant in those group texts, and Alexandra does not allege that he was.”
Following last night’s protest, Waterbury, who supports but did not initiate or organize the campaign, posted Instagram photos of the action, writing, “Cannot believe 40+ people showed up tonight to protest Amar’s casting in @westsidestorybway We handed out 400+ flyers to audience members. I’m excited to continue raising awareness about these abuses and fighting for justice. It’s time to hold people accountable for their actions. Talent is not an excuse or a justification for sexual assault or misogynistic slander. Thank you to everyone who came out tonight and to those who organized everything. The support received is overwhelming and humbling. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Despite the online campaign and protests outside the Broadway Theatre, West Side Story, directed by Ivo van Hove and produced by Scott Rudin, has been selling out and posting weekly grosses well in excess of $1M.
Now in previews, the reimagined musical opens Feb. 20, almost certainly with Ramasar, who most recently appeared on Broadway in the acclaimed production of Carousel. Rudin told The New York Times that the production stands by the actor/dancer, “an exemplary company member” whose past behavior did not involve West Side Story. “He has more than earned our trust,” Rudin told The Times.
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Cannot believe 40+ people showed up tonight to protest Amar’s casting in @westsidestorybway We handed out 400+ flyers to audience members. 🤯 I’m excited to continue raising awareness about these abuses and fighting for justice. It’s time to hold people accountable for their actions. Talent is not an excuse or a justification for sexual assault or misogynistic slander. Thank you to everyone who came out tonight and to those who organized everything. The support received is overwhelming and humbling. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. #TimesUp #MeToo #StillNotYourFarmAnimal @changedotorg