An actor in a Newhall, Calif., production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which features gay themes, was fired Saturday after physically confronting an audience member who repeatedly yelled "fag" during the performance, reports KHTS Radio.
"The second time, I wasn't going to stand for it anymore," said John Lacy, who portrayed Big Daddy in the Repertory East Playhouse staging of the classic Tennessee Williams drama. "He was so loud and so invasive to our performance." After identifying the heckler and coming down from the stage, "I gave him a little shove to let him know I was there," Lacy continued, "and because of the alcohol, he went down pretty easily."
"As an audience member and a gay audience member, I've been to a lot of theater and I’ve never experienced something where the thematics of the story, homophobia and hate, that were depicted onstage were depicted in the audience," added Tim Sullivan, who picked up the intoxicated patron and ushered him into the lobby.
Following the performance, which ended with a standing ovation, Rep East executive director Ovington M. Owston reportedly fired Lacy. Actor Anton Troy, who played Brick, a sexually conflicted character typically viewed as closeted, then resigned in a display of solidarity, as did performer Anthony Bietel.
"We are committed to provide groundbreaking subject matter and professional performances to our audiences," said Owston in a statement. "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."
"I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn't support its talent," wrote Troy on his personal Facebook page. "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."
The production, which was scheduled to run for two more weeks, was reportedly canceled because of insufficient time to recast the two lead roles.
"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," said a Rep East representative in an additional statement.
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