After Jesse Williams nude video, theater turns camera to audience

The nonprofit theater showcasing a star-studded Broadway revival of ‘Take Me Out’ installed a new infrared camera on Wednesday to help its security team spot surreptitious use of the camera by members of the public after the online broadcast of a video of a nude scene featuring actor Jesse Williams.

Second Stage Theatre, which is producing the much-loved production, already required viewers to put their phones in locked pockets before the show started, but decided to add extra security measures after someone managed to film and to post on social media. video showing Williams, an actor best known for “Grey’s Anatomy”, naked.

Second Stage production manager Peter Dean said the theater security team already had a camera view of the audience they were monitoring before, during and after the play’s shower sequences, but that Wednesday morning She had added a PTZ camera (the initials stand for pan, tilt, zoom) which would allow her to get a clearer picture of individual audience members at the Hayes Theater, where “Take Me Out” has been airing since March 10. .

“This will allow us to focus on an audience member who appears to be doing something suspicious and assess whether they are just reaching into a purse for a mint or pulling out a phone,” said Dean.

He said if security spots a banned phone it will alert ushers and the house manager, and that “we are having discussions internally as to whether we would stop the show then, or send an usher or security when we will see someone, to remove them.” He said theater staff could ask patrons to delete footage from a phone or call the New York Police Department for help.

When asked what a member of the public should do if they see someone filming, Dean replied, “We are New Yorkers. If you see something, say something.”

Second Stage uses Yondr sleeves to restrict phone use in theater. When patrons arrive, they are asked to turn off their phones and put them in the locked pouches, which patrons hold throughout the show, then put back to be unlocked when the show is over. The system, used at some comedy shows, pop concerts and other live events, is obviously flawed – some people have figured out how to open such pouches, while others smuggle phones in despite the rules.

Dean noted that Second Stage put on the play “Linda Vista” at the Helen Hayes Theater in 2019. This piece featured both male and female nudity, and there was no problem with the videotaping, he said. But he said he believed that in 2003, when “Take Me Out” first aired on Broadway, someone managed to get a nude photo of star Daniel Sunjata, even though that airing was before the invention of the iPhone.

“Take Me Out”, written by Richard Greenberg, is about homophobia in baseball; Williams plays a team star who comes out as gay and faces discomfort from some of his teammates. In 2003, the drama won the Tony Award for Best Play; this week, the current production picked up four nominations, including one for best cover and three for actors including Williams, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Michael Oberholtzer. Oberholtzer can also be seen, naked, in some online videos.

Before the show, Williams, best known for “Grey’s Anatomy,” opened up about nudity. “It’s terrifying in every way,” he said on “The Ellen Show” last year. In an interview this year with The New York Times, he was more optimistic. “I’m here to do things that I’ve never done before,” he said. “I have one life, as far as I know. It will be fine.”

Williams, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the release of the video, but the incident sparked outrage from Second Stage and the Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents artists. of scene.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the creation and distribution of photographs and videos of our members in a nude scene,” union president Kate Shindle said in a statement. “As actors, we routinely accept being vulnerable on stage in order to tell challenging and empowering stories. That doesn’t mean we accept those vulnerable moments being widely shared by anyone with the urge to introduce a device of recording in the theatre.

Second Stage, which distributes Playbills with an insert reminding customers that “photos and videos are strictly prohibited”, released its own statement, saying “we are appalled that this policy has been violated” and that “taking nude photos of anyone without their consent is highly reprehensible and can have serious legal consequences.

The theater said it was seeking to have the online videos removed.

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