The entertainment world is just one of the many industries coming to grips with the prevalence of sexual harassment, and magic is no exception. Teatro ZinZanni’s “Love, Chaos & Dinner” show in Seattle came under fire after an audience member described interactions that she called inappropriate and unwanted. (Descriptions of the tricks and mentions of sexual assault follow.)
Yevgeny Voronin, the main character in the show, interacted with guest Karyn Wittmeyer for two different tricks that she was not expecting. In one part of the performance, he stuffed a handkerchief down the front of her dress, touched the side of her breast with a fork, then removed the handkerchief along with her bra. In a second trick, Voronin stood behind Wittmeyer and pressed his pelvis against her back while he had a vibrating mechanism in his pants.
Wittmeyer spoke to Seattle publication The Stranger about the performance afterwards, explaining her experience. "It felt like a memory of sexual assault," she said. "The bra trick and vibrator trick mimicked what can happen while being assaulted, and I was touched sexuality [sic] without consent."
There was no notification on the Teatro ZinZanni website or at the physical theater about the type or degree of audience participation. The show’s online description simply bills the performance as “a three hour evening filled with sophisticated humor, sensuality, and innuendo,” which does not encapsulate the actual interactions in the production.
Voronin has made a statement about the complaint with the cooperation of Reenie Duff, the theater’s artistic director. “It has never been my intention to violate a person’s personal space and it has become clear that through my performance elements I have stepped over the line, and for that I am truly sorry,” he said. “While I have not experienced backlash about my bits in the past, I do understand that times have changed and I recognize that adjustments to my work are necessary in order to support a safe and welcoming environment for our guests.” The full statement is published in The Stranger.
Teatro ZinZanni also released a statement of its own, saying that it is taking the complaints very seriously. “We are taking this opportunity not only to address the particular elements of the show that caused distress, but also to go further to make changes throughout that reinforce our intentions to create a respectful and welcoming environment,” the team said. Again, The Stranger has the full statement.