NYC theater community holds 'March on Broadway' to oust Scott Rudin, combat racism, inequality

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Members of the New York City theater community held a rally Thursday calling for producer Scott Rudin to be ousted from the Broadway League amid allegations of a toxic work environment and for a plan to combat racism and inequality in the industry.

The March on Broadway: Broadway Fights Back began at Columbus Circle and marched to Washington Square, and it included guest speakers from all facets of the theatre community -- including organizers Nattalyee Randall and Courtney Daniels, as well as Broadway stars Eden Espinosa, Ryan Vasquez, James Pierce III, Brandon Michael Nase, Jaime Cepero, Diamond Essence White, Sis, Paige Levy, Ashley De La Rosa, and the organization Everybody Black.

"We do not want this to be actors vs the union," Randall and Daniels said in a joint statement. "We do want the union to do its job and keep us safe."

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They listed their demands as follows:

--Scott Rudin to be removed from the Broadway League: If he is not removed from the Broadway League, we want restoration. We want Scott to publicly choose 20 BIPOC run theatres and donate a large sum of money to them.

--A full list of organizations that AEA is working with to help Black, Indigenous, and POC feel safer.

--A full report of how the 2020 Equity dues were spent and what percentage is being spent to help conversations around diversity.

--Achieve greater inclusion for trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming artists.

--We want visibility on how the national council votes for policies. We also want efforts to improve diversity within the council.

--We want to achieve greater inclusion for artists with visible and nonvisible differing abilities.

"I've seen my colleagues experience harassment, racism, and there was nothing they could do about it," Randall said. "They tried to raise their voice, they tried to go to the union. they tried to talk to the producers. And they were shut down."

Rudin recently announced he was "stepping back" from film and streaming projects, along with his Broadway productions, as the fallout continued for one of the entertainment industry's most powerful and prolific producers following renewed accusations of bullying.

In a statement Tuesday, Rudin said he would use the time to "work on personal issues I should have long ago." Rudin, who has many projects in various stages of development, didn't otherwise specify what "stepping back" entailed.

"When I commented over the weekend, I was focused on Broadway reopening successfully and not wanting my previous behavior to detract from everyone's efforts to return," Rudin said. "It's clear to me I should take the same path in film and streaming. I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior has caused and I take this step with a commitment to grow and change."

It all follows a story by The Hollywood Reporter on April 7 that detailed numerous instances of alleged harsh treatment of employees of his production company, including smashing a laptop screen on an assistant's hand and throwing objects including glass bowls, staplers and baked potatoes.

"My hope is this will start a change in the American theater," attendee Andre Jordan said. "And we start thinking of diversity on all levels: Producers, casting, directors."

While well known for his allegedly verbally abusive treatment of a revolving door of assistants, the 62-year-old Rudin has long shepherded some of the most acclaimed films and Broadway shows to fruition. His productions have accumulated more than 150 Oscar nominations and some 17 Tonys.

That includes films like "No Country for Old Men," "The Social Network," "The Truman Show," "Fences" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel." His Broadway hits include "The Book of Mormon" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." In the past, he's defended his workplace environment as part of a tough and competitive business.

Upcoming film projects for Rudin include Netflix's starry adaptation of the bestseller "The Woman in the Window," A24's adaptation of the Tony-winning play "The Humans" and Joel Coen's Shakespeare adaptation "The Tragedy of Macbeth," with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand - also for A24 Current Broadway shows produced by Rudin include "The Book of Mormon," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "West Side Story" and the upcoming revival of "The Music Man."

A24 is ending its relationship with Rudin on future films, said a person familiar with the company's plans who was granted anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The boutique studio and Rudin have collaborated on some of the most acclaimed films of recent years, including "Lady Bird," "Uncut Gems" and "Eighth Grade." In December, A24 and Rudin set plans to adapt the 2020 bestseller "Shuggie Bain."

A spokesperson for A24 declined to comment.

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While most of Rudin's collaborators have been quiet following the article, several prominent labor unions earlier responded. The Actors' Equity Association, which represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theater, called on Rudin to release former employees from nondisclosure agreements signed during employment with him.

SAG-AFTRA, the Actors' Equity Association and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 earlier released a joint statement that didn't directly address the Rudin report but spoke out against toxic workplace environments.

"Every worker deserves to do their job in an environment free of harassment of any kind, whether that harassment creates a toxic workplace or, certainly in the case of sexual harassment, when that behavior is also against the law," the unions said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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