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Actor Fired After Booting Anti-Gay Heckler From Theater

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday June 3, 2014

A California theater fired one of its actors after he threw out a heckler for shouting anti-gay epithets at the cast. In a recent article in Gay Star News, The Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall fired actor John Lacy, who played the role of Big Daddy in its production of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," after he jumped off the stage and confronted an audience member who was making noise and yelling "faggot" during emotionally tense scenes.

"An audience member took it upon himself to heckle us all the way thru Act I, when it persisted in Act II and the producers did NOTHING about it," Lacy told castmate Anton Troy, who posted the account on his Facebook page. "Then he called our lead actor a 'fag,' I took charge and showed him what was what. And, get this, the producer, [Ovington Michael Owston] FIRED ME! Insert laugh track! Sorry for those who planned on attending. Right is right. Stood up to bullies my entire life, not gonna stop now."

The audience gave Lacy a standing ovation after he gave the heckler the boot, but the theater gave Lacy a pink slip after the performance. They later said that if managers had been made aware of the time, they would have intervened. But for lead actor Troy, who resigned in solidarity, that was too little, too late.

"I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn't support its talent," Troy wrote in The Wrap. "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."

But the show's Cat, Emily E. Low, disagreed with Lacy's move, saying that violence should not have been the answer, adding that criticism is part of the gig and that perhaps the comments were appropriate.

"As actors we must take the positive audience responses with the negative. It's not always about cheers and standing ovations," she wrote on a now-deleted Facebook thread. "And, the truth is, Brick is, after all, a gay man. The material is strong, and it elicits strong responses from an audience, different every night."

Ovington Michael Owston, executive director of the REP, did not respond to requests for comment from Backstage, but did comment in a statement.

"We are committed to provide groundbreaking subject matter and professional performances to our audiences," said Owston. "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."

The show, which was originally scheduled to end on June 14, is now closed as there is no time to recast the players.


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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.