Video and still images of a nude Jesse Williams taken during a Broadway performance began circulating earlier this week, prompting the Second Stage Theater in New York City to announce it would be adding more staffers to combat the issue of theatergoers using phones during performances. Williams is currently starring in a revival of “Take Me Out” at the venue.
The images were leaked online earlier this week, prompting swift reaction from the theater company, actors’ union and Williams’ fellow cast-members. The theater announced on Tuesday it will be adding additional staff members to enforce its policy prohibiting photos and video being taken during performances.
According to Deadline, the theater will also install an infrared camera system to monitor the audience. Second Stage did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
“Taking naked pictures of anyone without their consent is highly objectionable and can have severe legal consequences,” the theater company said Tuesday. “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.”
The Tony Award-winning play, which originally premiered in 2002, centers around a famous Major League Baseball star who publicly comes out as gay. Much of the story takes place in the team’s locker room, and the current production has a scene in which the actors appear nude in the clubhouse showers.
Prior to the leak, the theater was already taking precautions in an effort to ensure the “safety” of the play’s cast by partnering with Yondr — a company that makes cases with magnetic locks for smartphones and other electronic devices. “Take Me Out” viewers are required to place their devices in the locked compartments, which they are able to keep with them throughout the performance but can only be unlocked at the end of the show.
“I’m appalled by the disrespect shown to the actors of our company whose vulnerability on stage ever night is crucial to Take Me Out,” actor and “Take Me Out” cast member Jesse Tyler Ferguson said Tuesday. “Anyone who applauds or trivializes this behavior has no place in the theater which has always been a safe space for artists & audience members.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the creation and distribution of photographs and videos of our members during a nude scene,” Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association, said Tuesday in a statement. “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.
The “Take Me Out” revival received four Tony Awardon Monday, the day the images were leaked, including a Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play nod for Williams.