Actor Fired After Removing Anti-Gay Heckler at Repertory East Playhouse
The stage is meant to be one of the safest places in the world. However, our lives far too often are brought into the theatre today and interrupt the performances we attend. Hecklers are nothing new to the theatre. They have been around since the very beginning and still continue to interrupt performances today. However, when hecklers comments turn in something race or gender related, a new issue arises. This is an issue, we as a theatre community, should not simply look past. It is something that needs to be talked about and needs to stop. Right now. Today, Luner on Theatre brings you the news that actor John Lacy was fired from his role as Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at Repertory East Playhouse after confronting an anti-gay heckler during a performance!
It was just like any other performance day. Saturday May 31st, the cast and crew of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at Repertory East Playhouse arrived at the theatre for their performances that day. However, this night the actors onstage would have to deal with a heckler in the audience. An audience member attending the performance not only spent most of the performance commenting on the production but also yelled several anti-gay slurs at cast members. The term “fag” was used at least twice. The heckler was spotted drinking heavily at intermission.
At one during the second act after the heckler shouted “fag” again at actor John Lacy (Pictured Right) on stage, who was playing the role of Big Daddy, Lacy decided he would take the manner into his own hands if no one else would. Lacy stepped off stage into the house and asked who had made the remark. The heckler stood up proudly proclaiming “I Did.” Lacy proceeded to push the man who fell easily to the floor from all of the drinking he had done. Another patron than picked up the man and removed him from the theatre entirely. Lacy returned to the stage where he not only finished the scene but then went on with the rest of the cast to finish the performance. According to reports, the audience cheered very loudly for him when it came time for bows that evening.
However, not everyone thought the actions of Mr. Lacy were quite as heroic. Following the incident that night at the theatre, producers fired Mr. Lacy for his handling of the situation. Upon learning he has been let go, fellow actor Anton Troy, who played Brick, quit the production to show his solidarity with Lacy for his handling of the situation. Due to the importance both Lacy and Troy held in the show with no time to recast their parts, all future performances of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof have been cancelled at Repertory East Playhouse for the reminder of its run.
In a post on Facebook, Anton Troy spoke out supporting his fellow actor for the decision he made and denouncing the actions of the producers which followed.
“I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn’t support its talent. Hate in any form is not something I choose to subscribe to. John is a seasoned professional and an honorable man. It should never escalate to a point where the talent has to handle an unruly drunk in the audience themselves regardless of the outcome. Producers dropped the ball, the fish stinks from the head on down.”
Repertory East Playhouse has released the following statement regarding the incident which took place during the May 31st performance.
“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.”
I cannot even begin to describe my disappointment with how the situation at Repertory East Playhouse was handled. Actors should never be put in a place where they are unable to continue with a production due to the interruption of an audience member yet alone an audience member who is yelling anti-gay slurs at them. Repertory East Playhouse FAILED to act in such a manner that would allow the artists to present this work to audiences for several more weeks. I not only applaud John Lacy’s actions but would encourage anyone who encounters such a situation, to do the same. You don’t even have to get off stage or push the person unless you really feel like going for that. However, stopping the show to create a safe environment for the actors and fellow audience members was the right thing to do. Many mentioned this was unsafe in case the heckler had some sort of weapon on him. Perhaps the theatre should begin security checks at the door if patrons are concerned about weapons in the theatre as well. None the less, I do not think it was correct for the producers to fire Mr. Lacy. I applaud Mr. Troy for standing with Lacy’s actions and agree, there is no time or place for hate. Especially in theatre. It cannot and should not be tolerated.
Luner on Theatre will be sure to update you on this situation as it unfolds. We are currently unsure at this time if anything else is expected to come of this situation. Lacy talked with a local news this morning in California and said if he was in the same situation, he would do just what he did again. For more information, visit Repertory East Playhouse’s Official Website. And of course, check out the rest of Luner on Theatre for all your theatre news you don’t only need but want to know and so much more!