See our June 6 update: The Actors Gang is mounting a one-night-only staged reading to bring the production back, with four of the original eight actors, as a fundraiser for the NoH8 Campaign.
A SoCal production of the Tennessee Williams classic Cat On a Hot Tin Roof was canceled today after a homophobic outburst in the audience led to a physical confrontation, the firing of an actor, and an apparent cast revolt.
Those are the allegations we gathered after speaking to audience member Tim Sullivan, a Hollywood director who was at the Repertory East Playhouse to support his friend, Anton Troy, performing the roll of Brick.
The theater announced in a statement today that the run of the play was “suspended” through its June 14 end date as a result of “cast members leaving the show with no time to adequately re-cast their parts … “
According to Sullivan, a man in the audience was allegedly drunk and heckling the performers during Saturday night's performance. He said he saw the guy drinking up during intermission.
The play addresses sexual repression at a time when being “out” is not even narrowly accepted.
The heckling had been building up, Sullivan alleged, with whistling and cat-calling aimed at the character Maggie, as if the heckler and his friend “were at a strip club.”
The main heckler crossed the line during the play, Sullivan said, when, at the moment Brick is asked why he rejected a kiss from Maggie. At that point, the heckler called out something like, “Because he's a fag,” according to the director.
At that point the actor playing Big Daddy, John Lacy, went into the audience to confront the man, Sullivan said. Before the heckler's friend could throw a punch, Sullivan and his pal (Rob Vinton, son of Bobby) jumped in and subdued both men, he said.
“It was almost like he [Big Daddy] was still in character,” Sullivan told us:
Me and Rob go down there and I grab the heckler by the shoulders and take him to the door like a bouncer. The other guy tries to swing, but Rob blocks him. The audience applauds. John Lacy says, 'Is everybody okay, do you want us to continue?' The rest of the play has more resonance than ever.
Except, Sullivan says, that he soon learned that Lacy had been fired by the theater (which was also the play's producer) for going into the audience to confront the heckler. The actor who'd been heckled, Anton Troy, then announced on Facebook that he quit the production.
Troy stated this yesterday:
I support my cast mate – – no John Lacy means no Anton Troy. 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.
Sullivan agreed, alleging that, “There were no producers or security inside during the whole production.”
“I as an audience member shouldn't have to protect the actors from an attack from a drunken homophobe,” he said. “Then the theater fires John?”
The play was being primed for a wider tour outside Santa Clarita, Sullivan said. But it looks like that's not going to happen now.
We reached out to Repertory East Playhouse for its side of the story but had yet to hear back. In a statement the theater said this:
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.
[Added at 4:04 p.m.]: We had also contacted Emily Low, who played Maggie, for her side of things. She got back to us.
The actress wanted to make a few assertions:
– The main heckler was not, as has been alleged, her boyfriend. That's a rumor to “vilify and slander me,” Low said. She said the two men in the audience were acquaintances at best, a duo among hundreds she says she invited through social media or other means.
– She never supported the hecklers' side of things, as has also been alleged. Low says her perspective was that violence should never have been threatened or used by either side. Actors have to deal with good and negative reactions, she said, and have to be professional about it.
She also said she was “flabbergasted” when she discovered that John Lacy had been fired. “I don't think John should have been fired.”
“I do not condone what the hecklers were saying at all,” Low said. “I'm a supporter of gay rights and certainly not on the opposing side of that in any way.”