When The Audience Bellows Louder Than Big Daddy

June 3rd, 2014 § 48 comments

“I got into a brawl one night in a saloon in Greenwich Village. Elia Kazan, a great director, saw me put out a couple of hecklers and figures there was some Big Daddy in me, just lyin’ dormant. And out it came. ”

Burl Ives, the original Big Daddy

Anton Troy & John Lacy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at Repertory East Playhouse

Anton Troy & John Lacy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at Repertory East Playhouse

First, to state what I hope would be obvious to anyone who bothers to read me, I believe that hate speech is vile. But in reading the accounts of what took place this past weekend at the Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita, California, while I am angered by the the comments that ended up halting a performance midway through, and ultimately pleased that the speaker was shut down, I am struck by the failure of the staff of the theatre to address the situation properly as it unfolded.

The short version of the story is that during a performance of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, an audience member, reportedly drunk, repeatedly and loudly hurled anti-gay slurs at the actor playing Brick. At a certain point, which I’m guessing to be somewhere during the play’s second of three acts, John Lacy, the actor playing Big Daddy, came off the stage to confront the despicable patron. The situation became threateningly physical, and two patrons, Tim Sullivan and Rob Vinton, interceded to remove the ugly patron. The performance, remarkably, continued.

The upshot? Lacy was fired for physically engaging with a member of the audience and actor Anton Troy, who played Brick, quit in support. The production has been canceled as a result of the loss of two central cast members. For fuller accounts, I refer you to The Wrap, which appeared to be first with the story, and to the L.A. Weekly, which did an enlightening follow-up, including addressing details that had emerged in comments on the first post. I suspect we will see more.

For anyone involved in running a performing arts venue, the Repertory East scenario should become a training case study for any member of your staff who might potentially interact with the audience. It is a superb case study because, it seems, not a single person at the theatre that night did anything correctly. It was an awful situation, badly handled. The best that can come out of it now is that it becomes a teaching tool.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.27.24 PMLet’s start with the patron. Free speech does not give anyone the freedom to shout fire in a crowded theatre, any more than it gives someone the right to announce sexist, racist or homophobic slurs in a theatre. Frankly, it doesn’t give them the right to interject anything they might care to say during a live or filmed performance. Even if the drunk at Repertory East had been bellowing in sympathy with Brick’s emotional trauma or vociferously condemning Big Daddy’s own failure to understand his son, the patron should have been warned once and then removed if the behavior persisted.

So where was the house staff during this incident? Was there not one usher, let alone an assistant house manager or house manager, in the auditorium itself to witness this at the very start? I even have to wonder why, at least according to the statement given by the theatre’s management, no one supervisory was aware this was happening. Did any patron exit and seek a staffer and, if so, why didn’t they do anything? If the shouting was loud enough for the actors to hear, why didn’t the stage manager or deck crew contact house management? Could no one hear this on house monitors? If house management felt frightened by the bellowing patron, why didn’t they call a senior staffer for backup, or for that matter, the police? Why didn’t the actors simply stop performing and walk off stage to seek redress?

I don’t know this theatre and I daresay the attention that’s flooding their way swamps any prior national attention they’ve received. But whether they’re professional or amateur, Equity or non-AEA, have just begun operating or have been around for years, if they undertook to bring in an audience for a performance, they should have had systems in place for common scenarios, including disruptions. If they did, the systems failed; if they didn’t, then the management failed. This should have never escalated to the point where an actor should have even had to contemplate coming off the stage to handle it personally, let alone have done so.

If you run a venue, circulate the stories from The Wrap and the L.A Weekly to your staff, and talk about them at your next staff meeting. If you’re an actor, know that when audience behavior goes beyond the pale, your best course of action is to pause and ask for help, not to become an enforcer. If you’re a patron and other attendees are getting out of hand, seek out the theatre’s staff, even if you have to miss a bit of the show.

Oh, and one final note, for those who run venues as producers. If you undertake to fire your actors for handling a situation that you or your staff should have nipped in the bud long before it became explosive, don’t issue mealymouthed statements like this, from Repertory East:

rep east cat logoDue to unforseen circumstances, the run of the Tennessee Williams’ drama “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” at the Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall has been suspended and the show will not be completing its projected performance schedule. The show was originally scheduled to end June 14, however, an incident during the May 31 performance has resulted in cast members leaving the show with no time to adequately re-cast their parts and provide the quality theater experience patrons have come to expect from the REP.

During that evening’s performance, an unruly patron allegedly made discriminatory comments that distracted audience members and a confrontation occurred between a member of the cast and the disturbing party. The management of the REP regrets that this situation was not brought to their attention sooner and would like to assure future audiences that disruptive behavior, including disparaging remarks from the audience, incidents of bullying or hate speech, and racial, discriminatory or homophobic utterances, will not be tolerated and offending parties will be asked to leave the theater.

“We are committed to provide groundbreaking subject matter and professional performances to our audiences,” said Ovington Michael Owston, Executive Director of the REP. “We are extremely sorry that our patrons experienced this disruption and will do our best to make it up to those holding reservations for cancelled performances.”

Repertory East (presumably Ovington Michael Owston and Mikee Schwinn, the executive director and artistic director), you reference the specific, reprehensible language of the disruption in an effort to mask both your company’s inaction the night of the incident and your subsequent actions towards John Lacy, which are deeply questionable. You failed to eject the homophobic lout, but then eject the only person who sought to address his behavior. What transpired at Repertory East Playhouse is already known far beyond your theatre and your community, so why pretend you can control the story with obfuscation and gain sympathy with your declaration of support for essential decency? Your statement is mendacity indeed.

Thanks to Meg McSweeney for the Burl Ives anecdote


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  • Cody

    Exactly! Where was the House Manager? If there was no theatre staff presence, they are in violation of public assembly fire codes.

    Seems like the actors were left to fend for themselves (which you are correct in suggesting their course of action should have been leaving the stage) and the theatre punished the artists for dealing with a situation the theatre should have dealt with.

    Again, a (unfortunately) great teachable moment for theatres big and small.

  • Penelope Sanchez

    I’ve been reading great deal on this story and appreciate your level take on events. The nuances are intriguing. It was a perfect storm. Had the theatre not served liquor, or if they ejected the heckler during intermission, there’d be no story. Had the heckler just been drunk and stupid, no story. Had Big Daddy asked for house lights to be turned on and for the management to remove the inebriated heckler, no story. Had the two female leads not turned on their cast mate, my guess is the producers would have gotten this back on track and we’d all be looking forward to a crackling show this weekend. But since the theatre management enabled him to get drunk (or drunker) then remained passive through his first act disruptions, they opened the door to whatever came next, which was anti-gay rhetoric. Yuck. To then fire the only person in the theatre that was willing to take a stand? Inconceivable. The tsunami that ensued is amazing. The kind of actor that earns the right to play Big Daddy has depth, good old fashioned American horse sense, and maybe a pinch of alpha-male qualities. The heckler’s disruptions threatened everyone, audience and cast members alike. Big Daddy did what Big Daddies do. We love this avenger.

    • Howard Sherman

      You had me until the word “avenger.” I can’t support that action, because while I share his outrage, there were certainly other less confrontational ways to address the situation, rather than escalating it. If we praise people as “avengers” and “heroes,” we risk ever more situations like this – which would have never happened if the staff of the theatre had been doing their jobs.

  • Former House Manager

    You have said exactly what I was thinking–where was house management? Did stage management call them? What is the administration’s role in this situation?

    More than all of this though, is the question of whether or not the administration has given house management the training and support to deal with this kind of patron. I left house management specifically due to the lack of support from the “upstairs,” and if this had happened in one of my theaters in the past, I can guarantee you no one would have my back for attempting to eject a patron; admin more often than not chided me for things that were not even within my purview. Furthermore, no small- to moderately-sized theater I have worked in, be it Off-Broadway or regional, has had a security team. It was always just ME. I was expected to be security as well as house management.

    There is also little to no training for house management to deal with ejecting patrons, at least that I have experienced. In almost a decade of house managing this was never once addressed with me. I am thankful this sort of situation never happened, but obnoxious patrons occur more than we would like.

    So while I am confused as to what house management did or did not do, as it is not mentioned in the other articles, I would also like to create a larger conversation as to how administration can better support those who are the face and the action of the company at large. I think the fault here also lies in the systemic expectation that house management should just know what to do without training and support.

    • Howard Sherman

      The larger conversation is exactly what I’m hoping to foster with this post. The articles and many of the comments are focused on the language used to interrupt the production, others are caught up in the internecine relationships between the cast members and how they’ve responded to the incident. But for administrators, managers and staffs, this is an operational issue, a systemic failure, and a dialogue that should be held at every venue that brings in an audience.

  • Esther

    I can’t believe the comment that the management wishes the matter had been brought to their attention sooner. I always thought every theatre – like every sports venue, concert hall, club – has someone in the house during the event to watch out for situations like this one. You don’t just close the door and leave the actors, crew and audience to fend for themselves. What if an actor had gotten injured or an audience member became ill or there had been a fire?

    • Colleen

      I’ve never heard of a small theatre requiring a staffer to sit in the theatre house during the show. And I’ve performed in close to a hundred LA productions around town. In fact, most small productions do not even have a crew member or stage manager backstage. However, there is always someone in the light booth which is usually, but not always, in the back of the house.

      I don’t believe the heckler was shouting as some have reported. I know a cast member and that person said they weren’t hearing any of this backstage, so that doesn’t seem like the guy was shouting. Probably talking or muttering. I also don’t believe this would have lasted in to the second half of the show if it was actually shouting. The audience would not have stood for it.

      Most of the actors in this production were not aware of a problem in the audience until Anton told Lacy at intermission. Why didn’t Anton tell the house manager? Instead of Lacy telling Anton to pretty much suck it up and use it in the role, why didn’t Lacy tell house management? House management should have removed the heckler(s) from the theatre at intermission, the moment they heard what was happening. Why didn’t the guy in the light booth tell management?

      But instead, no one thought to report the problem to the management. Really? C’mon. AND they served the drunk more alcohol at intermission. Had management been told, I’m sure they would have shown the heckler(s) the door to the street at intermission, if not sooner.

      But no one told management. Instead, Lacy stormed off stage and shoved the heckler, calling him a “motherf*cker”. In an interview, Lacy later said, “When I hear or see something that’s
      unacceptable — I’m not the kind of person to go up and punch someone in
      the face — but I will get in your face, and if I need to put my
      hands on you to let you know that I don’t appreciate what is
      unacceptable, you are going to feel my physical force. And that’s who I
      am, and I’ll never change.”

      Sounds to me like Lacy is a bully with a short fuse. Combine that with an obnoxious drunk and you’ve got a dangerous and explosive situation.

      And what about the other audience members who could have been hurt in a fracas?

      Where does the fault lay in this situation? Well, the idiot jerk who showed up drunk. His friends who didn’t drag him out of the theatre. The two actors who were aware of the problem but did NOT report it to management. The tech guy who didn’t report it. The other audience members who didn’t step out to the lobby to report it. And the actor who chose to “handle” the situation himself and got physical with the audience member.

      All theatres should have a policy in place and all ushers (who are usually unpaid volunteers, btw) should be aware of what to do if an audience member becomes unruly.

      I support this theatre for firing the actor. Yes, the theatre should have handled the situation. But since no one informed them, how could they know? Instead of charging in to the audience and cursing and shoving the heckler, the actors should have turned and walked off stage and waited for the heckler to be removed, then returned and resumed the performance. Lacy was unprofessional to do what he did.

      And the cynic in me just can’t help but wonder if Anton and Lacy aren’t playing this up as much as possible to get some free publicity for themselves as the “heroes” who stand up to bullies.

      • Jallen

        I can not agree with you more Colleen, brilliantly said. We do not know all the facts, only the ones that those now seeking the spotlight aggressively have chosen to share. Mistakes were made to be sure but as a stage actor for 25 years I would never even think to put my hands on an audience member over verbal insults, I can’t even fathom the rationale one makes to themselves to do so. Responding to it and stopping the show? Yep. Assaulting the person lobbing epithets, no freaking way. Lacy is very fortunate that he did not end up injuring that man when he shoved him down in a small dark theatre, he could be facing far worse repercussions than losing his role.

        But the worst of the bunch is the entitled homophobe of a man who chose to disrupt theatre with his vile filth. Shameful.

        • D. Jette

          I have to throw in my agreement as well. The knee-jerk activism of #LAThtr and all the blustery types who want to steal some shine for standing against gay slurs are misdirecting their anger at Rep East. John Lacy made a mistake. Rep East made a mistake but it wasn’t firing John Lacy. I’m glad the cast showed solidarity with their castmate but Rep East does not deserve the shade that’s getting thrown their way.

          • Jallen

            Not at all D. Jette. It is a good theatre with good people involved and it is a shame that they are being drug through the mud now. What is really grating is those who have chosen to make it as though that because they fired Lacy that they condone the behavior of the bigoted audience member, nothing could be further from the truth. Were those people around and supporting the theatre when they produced The Laramie Project? One isolated incident does not define the legacy of this theatre that has been around for a decade. This is not the norm at The REP and should not be treated long a long term systemic problem of not protecting the actors. I have performed there and I have directed there, never once have I felt unsafe, vulnerable to abuse or not backed by this theatre.

      • Reason

        You’re absolutely wrong. Whether or not you’ve heard of a small theater requiring a staffer to sit in the house during the show or not, this theater’s management was grossly negligent in handling (or failing to anticipate the need to handle) the situation during the performance and in its actions in firing the actor who did its job for it – which it wasn’t doing. For you to criticize and second guess and Monday morning quarterback this actor’s actions – taken in the moment, when faced with a difficult and irritating situation which no one else was doing anything about – is reprehensible. I wonder – is the cast member you know Missy or Emily? You blame everyone but the one party with the responsibility for dealing with unruly patrons. Shame on you. It is nice to see, though, that most people assess the blame where it belongs.
        On an interesting note, Emily now admits that the audience members were acquaintances. Why hasn’t she identified the jerk? Let’s here what he ahs to say about his behavior.
        It’s also worth noting that REP’s bad publicity is it’s own fault. Owsten acted hastily and very wrongly. If he wants to restore the theater’s reputation, he can start by an apology to the man he fired, and an offer to him to resume the show on new dates. If he doesn’t, he should be fired, and the theater given a fresh start with an ED who’s judgment isn’t so tainted and who can develop protocols and guide staff in dealing with such situations.

        • Jallen

          No, you are wrong. You are misinformed and spinning this for God knows what reason. The actor did not do the REP’s Job because the REPs jobs is not to assault any patron, even an unruly one. No company anywhere would have applauded one of their employees for assaulting someone in their place of business. The REP has a 10 year track record of NEVER having an incident even close to this one. There are eyewitness accounts that many in the audience were barely aware there was a disturbance until it RAPIDLY escalated to near brawl level thanks to an actor going too far. You do not have the facts, period.

    • Guest

      I totally agree. Who did management expect to “bring it their attention”??? Are they blaming the audience??? It’s not even clear that in such a small house the actors could have signaled management to do something without stopping the play. So in other words, the management is saying it’s everybody’s fault but their own. Mendacious is not a strong enough word for this cowardly behavior.

  • D. Jette

    I’m very disturbed by the theater community’s reaction to this incident. Yes, we hate hecklers and especially bigoted ones and we shouldnt’ stand for it. But demonizing Rep East (a good theater with great folks with the best intentions) for firing an actor for jumping into the crowd and physically confronting a guest – what would you have done? Opened your theater up to a lawsuit by condoning that kind of behavior? Lacy had to know his duty was stay on stage, and if necessary, stop the show and alert management. You can’t jump into the stands because someone calls you names, regardless of how right you feel. Comedians and athletes and performers of all types deal with much worse. Obviously, house management fell down on the job here, but folks hoping to politicize the theater’s actions I think are missing the point and really damaging a good little theater whose main failure here was not having an usher staffed/overserving this jerk of a

    • Howard Sherman

      I don’t believe I have endorsed anyone’s behavior here, nor have I tried to politicize it. My goal was to focus on where all of the failings happened, so that others might learn from them. I ask many questions about what happened, but only call out Rep East for their disingenuous statement about the incident, since greater candor was called for, and might have actually helped stem some of the rhetorical tide.

      • D. Jette

        Sorry for being unclear. I think your assessment is among the most sober and measured I’ve read.

    • Lars Beckerman

      Duty? The guy’s doing “free” theatre in Newhall! All of you pompous Monday morning quarterbacks kill me. If there had been an even more severe threat, and by the sounds of it this theatre had ZERO security in the house and an awol house mgr, Lacy would have been the first line of defense, probably to save/defend a gaggle of you likeminded Monday morning quarterbacks who know exactly how we are all supposed to behave. So, as Col. Jessup said in A Few Good Men: “You want Lacy on that wall, you need Lacy on that wall.”

  • Theatre Journalist

    In his Twitter bio, the Artistic Director of the Repertory East Playhouse Mikee Schwinn describes himself as “a man who creatively responds to his environment.” I can assure you that this whole situation was a “creative” response to the environment.

    This is an example of absolute failure on every professional level. Sure, it wasn’t a concert or comedy show, but did the staff of the theater or the production crew (for all we know they are one and the same) honestly not have any idea how to handle such behavior? The website indicates that this is an 81 seat theater — that’s less than the average movie theater. Anything above a slight whisper is probably audible throughout the house, so how could staff not be aware of what was going on if this patron was shouting?

    Some reports say the unruly patron continued to drink during intermission. Was this a member of the theater staff? If so, did he or she not realize how inappropriate it was to keep giving this person drinks? Indeed, why wasn’t this problem addressed at intermission by someone? Was the staff completely lost on how to respond?

    I’m still perplexed by all of these questions.

    • Working Comedian

      It is depressing to hear that this sort of behavior should be expected at a “concert or comedy show.” No professional performer should have to be subjected to abuse from an audience member.

  • R Kevin Garcia Doyle

    Thank you for your even-handed take on this situation.

    Do you have a sense of whether John Lacy actually touched the audience member? The L.A. Weekly article suggests it was just the audience members who removed the unruly audience member and his friend. The Wrap suggests Lacy was involved in physically removing them as well.

    It is perhaps a minor detail, but an actor stopping a show to ask hecklers to leave and an actor stopping a show to physically confront a heckler are two different things. Either way, it never should have progressed that far.

    • Colleen

      John Lacy charged in to the house, calling the drunk a “motherf**ker), and shoved him. The drunk had been standing when Lacy approached. He fell when Lacy pushed him.

      • R Kevin Garcia Doyle

        I’ve not read any news source that’s reporting this. What is your source?

        • Colleen
          • Colleen

            Click on the playbill link.

          • Jallen

            Thanks for sharing that link Colleen. I understand John’s frustration and I see how one can get caught up in the moment but his response was wrong and he has been around long enough that he should know it as well at this point. He even references the appropriate way to handle it and he chose to go another route. No theatre should be excited to have an actor willing to respond to a taunt in this fashion as it opens you up to incredible liability issues. Where is the line drawn at which I as an actor am justified in using physical assault as a means of curtailing an unruly audience member? Does it require a specific slur or epithet before I am OK to push an inebriated man in a tiny dark theatre? I just want to be clear so I know in my future performances. He said he fell because he was drunk but I would suggest that, knowing this theatre, he also likely fell because he was in a narrow row of seats or on the dark stairs and could have been badly injured or worse had he struck his head.

            This guy was a jerk who deserved to be tossed out and deserves his own taunts for being a buffoon, but in general the audience should also be safe from assault by the cast. What if he had misidentified the voice and attacked someone else? Easily could happen. So many mistakes to learn from here.

          • Vanaals

            I support Lacy in his action. When the producer decided to warn the cast of the problem, instead of dealing with it himself, Lacy had no expectation that anything would be done to resolve the situation. No support from management left the actors unprotected. If anything was going to be done, it was up to them to do it.

          • Jallen

            You support assault as a response? Because that is what happened, assault. Please Vanaals, please let me know what the trigger word is that is the one the permits me to assault a disruptive audience member because I spend a lot of my life on stage and I want to be clear before I assault someone whether you and others would have my back. Let’s vigilante it up! I am pretty sure that those pesky candy wrappers don’t quite rise to the occasion so I will assume that is off limits. How about someone answering a cell phone because that has happened. If not then what about when I hear suggestive comments about an attractive female co-star, which I have heard, not shouted, as an aside to a buddy they are with but I have heard them. Can I assault them then? I would love to know when I am justified to assault them because I don’t want to make a mistake.

          • Vanaals

            You like hyperbole, Jallen? While we’re qualifying our credentials, I have spent over half my life on stage. Working outdoor Shakespeare festivals, traveling street troupes as well as the standard indoor proscenium. Even city street film locations. Believe me, there are times when you need to be hands on when you have a belligerent person in the audience. I would like to hear more from the audience member who physically removed the drunk. It’s apparent from his story that the man had been lobbing his insults throughout the first act.

          • Jallen

            It’s apparent from the media people I have spoken with who talked to him that he REALLY REALLY wanted to promote his film he is working on 🙂 Nothing like finding your 15 minutes at the expense of a good theater with over a decade of positive stories and experience.

            And as someone who has spent that much time in and around it Vanaals can you share a single other experience where an actor assaulted an unruly audience member? Not escorted them out by grabbing them by the collar but assaulted them? Does that change your perception of the situation? When is assault justified, not hyperbole but assault. Stopping a show and calling for removal would have been called for and heroic, assaulting someone while putting other audience members at risk even from collateral damage is not heroic.

            Here is an account from an eye witness from the audience:

            From William Friedman’s FB:

            am a big supporter of the Repertory East Playhouse, and I was in
            attendance on Saturday night when this event happened. I witnessed the
            entire event. I just want to let everyone know, that at no time did the
            management of the “Repertory East Playhouse” act in any way other than
            with true professionalism. I have never witnessed such a scary event as
            this in my life, in any theatre. I could not believe, I was watching an
            actor in a play, leave character, and jump into the audience and commit
            in my opinion, assault on a audience member. Now don’t misunderstand me,
            this audience member probably deserved everything he got, but the Actor
            handled the situation entirely the wrong way. He, actually incited the
            audience into a melee, where many other audience members left their
            seats and started throwing and landing punches, targeted at the
            particular audience members. This could have led to many injuries of
            innocent people. You will hear that the Actor received an ovation from
            the crowd. However, in my opinion he would have received the same
            ovation, if he would have just stopped in his tracks and asked the house
            to remove the individual before he would be able to act any further.
            This I am sure would have resulted in no violence. I applaud Ovington
            Michael Owston and Mikee Schwinn for acting in a very professional
            manner. They have had to make very difficult decisions which go against
            their own beliefs. Their decision to fire this actor might go against
            some public opinion, however they had to do what is right to protect the
            future of our great community theatre. This in the long run will allow
            the theatre to continue to exist and be able to run plays that will
            raise awareness and help put an end to such issues as “Bullying” and
            “Racism” and “Homophobia”.

          • Jallen

            And here is the FB statement of a cast member:

            As a
            cast member of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, this will be my one and only post
            concerning the events of saturday last and the distrubing afterrmath
            that has ensued in the days following. I have geat affection for my
            fellow cast mates and so I say with all due respect that none of the
            actors, audience members that have been posting and most especially the
            legions of their online wanna be “supporters”
            (these same supporters that have been making outrageous unsubstantiated
            acccusations) are from the Santa Clarita Valley. If they were, they
            would have witnessed Ovington Michael Owston and Mikee Schwinn
            spend the last ten years, TEN YEARS, investing blood, sweat and tears
            to build the Repertory East Playhouse into an institution that local
            residents (and anyone from outside the area who wanted to attend) could
            count on for quality, affordable live theatre. The Rep East, along with
            the wonderful CTG, are cultural beacons in the SCV. I’ve interacted with
            audience members after many a show who have told me this was the first
            time they had even been to live theatre. And others shared that they
            were on a fixed income and could not afford the $100 plus for a ticket
            to the Pantages or Ahmanson and they are always amazed (and proud) of
            the caliber of live theatre here in our valley. There are few absolute
            rights and wrongs in this unfortunate situation. Let’s start with
            perhaps the only absolute wrong, the idiotic, bigoted heckler. No need
            to go into any more detail on him. From there, the right and wrong get
            hazy. There’s the actor (who I consider a friend and a fine human
            being). Were his actions heroic or foolhardy? That’s for each of you to
            decide. the theatre apparently decided his actions were dangerous and
            made a business decision to dismiss him. And that’s all it was, a
            business decision. It wasn’t a political statement or a commentary on
            social mores. It was a simple business decision that deeming that his
            actions were dangerous, he was dismissed. As much as some people want to
            try to spin it, any intelligent person would see they dismissed him
            because they disagreed with what he did, not because of who he did it
            to. If a heckler was calling out slurs about the Queen of England and an
            actor took offence and bolted into the audience and was dismissed
            because of his actions I doubt people would be saying the theatre was
            anti-British, so please internet people stop making juicy accusations
            you know are not true (every time I read one of your posts I see why it
            was so easy for Joseph McCarthy to acquire influence). To assist you in
            deciding if the theatre was right or wrong in deeming his actions
            dangerous I should give you a layout of the theatre (since its obvious
            few of you have been there). This is a compact 81 seat theatre with
            inclined seating and a single aisle down the middle. The silver lining
            in all this that nobody is mentioning is that nobody, thank God, was
            hurt. If an 80 year old patron had gotten caught up in the fracas or
            merely fell on the stairs trying to get away from the action and had
            broken an arm or leg, well we’d have a completely different story now
            wouldn’t we? That brings us to the commendation of the producers that
            seems such a popular item because they should have known about the
            heckler and dealt with him before or during intermission. It is
            important to note that not one actor or audience member came to theatre
            personnel and compalined about the heckler before or duing intermission,
            either because they didn’t hear it or didn’t care, which I think we
            know which answer is most likely (several of the posts I have read have
            boasted that if they had been in attendance Big Daddy would not had to
            come off the stage because they would have dragged the heckler out
            themselves yet apparently the audience members who actually were in
            attendance couldn’t even manage a SHUSH until the commotion started. And
            given the zeal with which they then joined in logic would seem to
            dictate that if they heard it they would have done something earlier, or
            at least told someone about it). Ah, you say, they should have had
            security guards or theatre personnel in the audience who would have
            known about the disturbance the heckler was causing. And, in your
            hindsite is 20-20 Monday morning quarterbacking you may have a point.
            However, after ten years of never once having this situation, I think
            its a stretch to condemn them for not foreseeing it. Also, I have been
            going to movie theatre for many years and almost never see an ursher
            inside the theatre once the show starts, but its fairly common
            knowledge that if a disturbance starts, someone talking loudly or
            smoking or whatever, we are pretty secure in the knowledge that if we
            step out into the lobby we will easily find theatre personnel who can
            handle the situation. Bottom line, when this sensationalized story has
            run its 15 minutes of fame and the online commenters move on to
            something else, the residents of Santa Clarita will still be here, as
            hopefully so will be our cultural institutions that nurture our soul.
            Long live Live threatre in the Santa Clarita Valley.

          • R Kevin Garcia Doyle

            Thank you for the additional information. I also found this telling:

            “Just as I’m about to step on stage, the
            producer who was in the house that night — his name is Mikee Schwinn
            [who produced alongside REP executive director Ovington Michael Owston] —
            whispers in my ear, ‘This is the drunkest audience we’ve ever had.’ So
            now I’ve got a co-star who is furious that he’s being heckled, and my
            producer has just warned me that the audience is inebriated, or
            obviously a fraction of the audience.”

            That makes it sound like the producer was at least aware that the situation was ripe for trouble.

  • John Butterfield

    Where was the house staff? If he was drinking or appeared drunk why did they keep serving him? Why did they not alert the ushers and house manager? This is a massive fail for the house staff and the producer, who if I am reading the following comments right, was there. You put your performer in a bad situation, give them no back up, then fire them for defending themselves and the work, basically your job.
    Good questions being raised are was the staff prepared or trained for such an event? Where was the crew? do you have any protocol set up for such events? In the end your response is to fire the actor, wow, if I were still in the states I would avoid your theatre at all costs. As an artistic director and producer it is your job to take care of those on stage. You set up the culture of the theatre if your audience thinks they are in front of a TV and can do what ever they like what have you done to encourage that belief? As a performer I certainly would think twice before taking a job there, the message is clear you are on your own.

  • Witoman

    I understand a variety of the complaints. I think the theater handled the situation poorly and the actor should not have been fired. The person making the comments at Brick was completely out of line and needed to be removed. But the rest of your comments shows a certain lack of understanding of smaller theaters and how the exist in today’s society.
    Most of them are barely scraping by. They cannot afford to hire a full staff and rely heavily on volunteers. It is very likely the ushers that night were volunteers who were only required to help people get to their seats before the show. There would be a House Manager. During the first act they would have been out in the lobby to assist late patrons and to help setup/restock any refreshments. Much like in a movie theater, the House Manager/staff usually doesn’t watch every performance.The general setup of most theaters is to have the house monitors go back to the dressing rooms, not the lobby, so to suggest they should have heard what was going on is contradictory to the setup of most theaters I have been in. Chances are the person/people working that night were not aware of the drunk audience member.
    The real question is did any of the PATRONS say anything? If the guy is being disruptive the people he came with should have said something. The people around him should have said something to him or at least to the house manager during the first intermission. Even then the House Manager could have watched for a bit and the guy didn’t say anything so the House Manager turned away to go back to other duties and then the drunk audience member continued.
    This is the reality of smaller venues. The House Manager usually wears different hats. Ushers are volunteers that may not even stick around once the performance starts. Maybe that needs to change but, with many theaters barely keeping things operating, expecting them to hire more staff is an unrealistic expectation.

    • Vanaals

      Unfortunately, we don’t know if any other patrons complained. But some complaints must have been made. Sufficiently so for the AD to warn the cast, after intermission, that there was a problem. That the AD didn’t confront the patron leads me to think that the butt in the seat and the cash in the drawer overrode the disruption he was making.

      • Jallen

        No one, not audience nor cast member raised any complaints or concerns whatsoever to theatre management during intermission or at any other time. There were never big outbursts that would have been noticeable to management until this one huge incident blew up rapidly, not even the person working in the sound booth at back of house heard anything out of the norm until this quick blow up. Most of the rest of the cast was completely unaware of a situation until then as well. In short the details are being embellished after the fact to make a case to justify assault as response to ugly bigoted verbal behavior.

        • Vanaals

          Are you speaking from first hand knowledge, Jallen?

  • Jim Joseph

    As a current Broadway House Manager with 20 years of experience, this story makes me equally sad and angry. I’ve read all of the articles and comments and of course the immediate reaction of “Where was the FOH staff” is a legitimate one. To hear that a producer was in attendance that night just exacerbates the situation. I wanted to learn more so I googled Repertory East Playhouse and I learned that the theatre is only 81 seats. 81! I can hear a candy wrapper open from anywhere inside of an 81 seat house, so how did no one – inside or outside – the auditorium not hear what was happening. Didn’t stage management hear it? Why didn’t stage management address the issue with anyone from management during intermission? The unruly behavior happened all throughout Act 1 and nothing was done to address it.

    I tell my staff all the time that we have to give the audience a chance to enjoy themselves. The actions of that heckler prevented the rest of the audience from having a chance to enjoy the show.

    The #1 characteristic of any house manager worth his weight is the ability to assess and react to unusual circumstances.
    Someone asked me how I would have dealt with this situation and my response was “It never would have gotten that far under my watch”.

  • tim simms

    He did not hurl anti-gay slurs only at the actor playing Brick, he hurled them at everyone in attendance.

    We live in a time when that kind of talk is unacceptable. It should be met fearlessly, and ferociously. Mr. Lacy was clearly a hero, and Mr Owston and Mr Schwinn had a responsibility to stand up against bigotry. They did not, which calls their very characters into question, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Lysander

    Thank you, Mr. Sherman, for bringing a more clear minded perspective to this story.

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  • Vanaals

    In the interview Mr. Lacy gave to Playbill, he relates that the artistic director of the theatre was there that night, and was backstage to warn the cast about the drunk heckler. It puts the lie to the producers’ claim “if we’d only known sooner”. If the AD was backstage, cautioning the actors instead of being in the house and dealing with the problem, Mr Lacy would have no expectation of support from the theatre’s management team.

    • Colleen

      In that same Playbill interview, Playbill claims to have spoken to Lacy AT INTERMISSION about the incident. The incident that happened in the second half of the show, AFTER intermission. Jes’ sayin’.

      • Vanaals

        Still doesn’t let the producers off the hook. They allowed the situation to escalate to the point where the actors had to deal with it.

  • Trudi Goodman

    I am an actor by profession. You are right. Where was the house staff? You never ever put your actors at RISK and you never, ever, leave them at RISK. What was Lacy supposed to do? Clearly this continued on and on. If I was in LA right now, I would be calling REP to tell them off. This was just atrocious. And good for the cast for quitting in support of Lacy and Troy. Actors are people not objects. Too many people go to the theatre without a clear understanding that they cannot do the same behavior in a theatre, that they do late at night in front of their TVs at home. Sigh. T. Goodman

    • Jallen

      Trudi, as an actor by profession you know what you can do or are supposed to do and it NEVER rises to the level of assaulting the disruptor even if their words are ugly. We have all seen videos of big name actors working in Broadway or off broadway shows that stopped their shows to chastise a disruptive heckler and in none of those cases did they choose assault as the way to deal with it and in none of those cases are the theater management on trial in the court of public opinion because it got to that point. As an actor I know I am far more likely to hear disturbances from a member of the audience than they would be in back of house or in the booth even.

  • rickimatsu

    Be as drunk as you want in a theater. But when you start heckling or throwing insults at the actors loud enough to disrupt both performers and the, you should be thrown out. I’m shocked that the theater (or crew) didn’t get involved and it was left to the performers.

  • BeJebus

    lol ushers? they don’t have no stinking ushers! the theatre has 81 seats, really tiny. i doubt they have any paid staff at all, maybe a volunteer or two, if that. if the producer was there, as has been reported, he should have handled it. i don’t fault any of the actors, not big daddy or even the chick who played maggie, because she is smmmmmokin!

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