NY Renaissance Faire employee: ‘People are terrified of speaking out ... being blacklisted or fired’

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A former manager at the New York Renaissance Faire broke her silence by accusing her former bosses of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment.

News 12's Tara Rosenblum investigated the New York Renaissance Faire back in September following allegations of worker mistreatment at the popular event.

MORE: Turn to Tara: Leaked documents allege misconduct at Renaissance Faire

A handful of former employees who watched the first Turn To Tara report are now speaking out - but only one would speak on camera.

Claire Bochenek, a former performer and manager, took News 12 behind the curtain of her summer spent in "Queen Elizabeth's court.”

Bochenek said she studied in England, and trained in Shakespeare and Greek theater, so felt she couldn’t pass up an opportunity to manage a 30-person cast last year.

After initially receiving what she described as 'the royal treatment' from her bosses, Bochenek claims her working conditions quickly deteriorated after she started to complain about alleged safety concerns that included missing bathroom breaks and unruly performers.

"They became hostile and it increased in severity," says Bochenek.

She says she finally hit a breaking point after a performer gifted her an unwanted sex toy.

"I opened it in front of all my cast members … and that was probably one of the most humiliating moments of my life,” she says.

That performer was immediately fired, but she says management retaliated against her after she filed a formal complaint in writing.

MORE: Got a problem? You should Turn to Tara. Here's how. 

Bochenek claims she is not alone, and that it’s happened to multiple women.

"A lot of the women would often, when we got together, would share things that were said to us, inappropriate things ... there was a 17-year-old cast member who came to me because one of the directors there said something that was sexually suggestive. She was humiliated by it and didn't know how to ask for help. I feel like it was behavior tolerated for so long it just became accepted,” she says.

News 12 has heard other similar complaints over the past two months regarding safety and harassment, but only Bochenek would speak on-camera.

“People are terrified of speaking out. Afraid of being blacklisted or fired. They’re scared. It’s sad,” she says.

While no one from the leadership team at the faire was willing to speak on-camera regarding the allegation, News 12 did hear from their lawyer who sent a lengthy statement that read in part, “Tara is searching for a story where none exists.”

He goes on to write “The culture at NYRF is anything but sexually hostile. The NYRF has a strong anti-sexual harassment policy, and provides comprehensive sexual harassment training.”

He added, “Breaks are regularly scheduled by directors, and employees can report incidents of misconduct without fear of reprisal.”

The lawyer also pointed out that for an organization of over 1,500 employees and volunteers, with more than 150,000 patrons per summer, incidents at the Renaissance Faire are few and far between.

 

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