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The doors at the Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita, Calif. — roughly 27 miles north of West Hollywood — opened at 7 p.m., but the cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof didn’t take the stage until 8 p.m., leaving the audience plenty of time to have a drink and unwind in the 81-seat theater, or if you’re like one guest, get hammered before Tennessee Williams‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning play about latent homosexuality and acceptance.
Well, there was little acceptance last Saturday night when, ten minutes after the intermission, an unidentified heckler called actor Anton Troy a “fag.” Troy’s costar John Lacy stepped down off the stage and confronted him with a shove that sent the man to the ground. Lacy was cheered by the audience but fired by company director Ovington Michael Owston, who according to Lacy and Troy claimed the heckler’s friend threatened to return with a gun after he was thrown out.
While Owston blames the incident on Lacy, Lacy blames the Playhouse for poor security. And though he might have a claim, the actor told The Hollywood Reporter he would not be filing any lawsuit. Owston could not be reached for a comment.
“Ovington just dressed me down,” said Lacy. “Blamed me for everything, said they were having threats to the theater, gun violence, the theater was in jeopardy and they could lose their license and his staff was in jeopardy. I put my face right up to his face and said, ‘Don’t you ever talk to me like that. You run a half-ass theater, and if you cannot protect your actors, I will.’ And as I was walking away he said, ‘Go “F” yourself.’ And I returned that fire, and then he fired me.”
Starring as the sexually conflicted ex-quarterback Brick, Troy started to hear consistent booing on each of his lines as they came into the intermission at which point he mentioned it to Lacy, who plays Big Daddy. Emily Low, playing Maggie, drew wolf whistles and catcalls from the same party, even prompting artistic director Mikee Schwinn to comment it was the drunkest crowd he’d ever seen at a show. Ten minutes later, the booing began again every time Troy spoke, and soon Lacy, too, was being targeted.
“At the end of my monologue, I turned to Brick and I say, ‘Now, why you so restless boy? You got ants in your britches?’ Just before he’s about to respond the heckler says, ‘Because he’s a fag!” remembers Lacy. A moment later, the heckler said it again, and that’s when the actor snapped. “I said, ‘What did you say motherf—er?”
He stepped over to where the guy was sitting with his ponytailed friend. “He stood up with a smirk on his face as if to say, ‘I’m the one,” Lacy said of the heckler. “I got right in his face, and I pushed him, and it didn’t take much to topple him. I was surprised. You could see it in his eyes. It was alcohol fifty percent, physical force fifty percent.”
At that point filmmaker Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs), a friend of Troy’s, was sitting nearby with his friend Robby Vinton (son of ’70s singing sensation Bobby Vinton). Just as the heckler’s friend was about to take a swing at Lacy, Sullivan and Vinton bum-rushed the offender and his friend out of the theater, though Sullivan took a punch in the chest from the heckler’s ponytailed companion.
When Troy learned that Lacy was fired, he stepped down, and now the show, which had hoped to travel after the remaining two weeks of its run at the Playhouse, is closed. While the two actors lay the blame on Owston for providing lax security, others in the cast blame Lacy.
“By you jumping off the stage and putting your hands on this guy put the whole theatre in jeopardy, cast and audience, and to me that is unforgivable,” said Missy Kaye, who plays Big Mama, on a Facebook post that has since been deleted. “What if this guy had a weapon? Did that cross your mind?”
“I think it was unfortunate that she jumped to some conclusion based on either rumors that she heard or something that Ovington planted, that I was the one threatening violence and that I quit before I was fired,” responds Lacy to his costar’s comments. “I’m a man before I’m an actor, and I trust my masculine instincts, and I don’t play by anyone else’s set of rules about how I conduct myself. I’ve stood up to bullies my whole life.”
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