That Tin Roof Is Still Hot   Leave a comment

The 1958 film starred Burl Ives, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

The 1958 film starred Burl Ives, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

Tennessee Williams’ “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955.

In my community, a performance of this 59-year old drama resulted in an audience member heckling actors, a physical confrontation with that audience member, a fired actor, a canceled production … and national news.

Santa Clarita, CA, is not a liberal hotbed, to be sure. It’s one of the more conservative towns in Southern California … our region has had a Republican representative to the US House for many years, for example.

Still, we’re in California, the land of fruits and nuts. We’re a historic filming location for Hollywood productions. Disney is building a very large production complex here. As many have discovered, one sure way to fail in Hollywood is to present a bigoted, discriminatory face to the industry. Rejection will follow.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t idiots in the world!

So, what happened?

The Repertory East Playhouse (AKA The Rep), located on Main Street in Santa Clarita, was producing “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.” This award-winning play explores many of William’s consistent themes: dysfunctional families, alcoholism, sexual identity and mendacity. During the performance on Saturday, May 31, an audience member called out “fag” when the character named Brick was speaking. News accounts vary somewhat, but the heckler apparently kept up his stream of invective throughout the production. During a scene between Brick and Big Daddy (the patriarch of the piece), after yet another insult was launched, the actor portraying Big Daddy, John Lacy, walked into the audience and confronted the heckler directly. Eventually, Mr. Lacy pushed the heckler to the floor.

At that point, the heckler was removed from the theater by a (helpful?) audience member, and the heckler and his companion left the premises.

The performance then resumed on stage, with the cast receiving a standing ovation at the end of the Brechtian event. The police had been called at some point during the evening, but nothing was to be done as the heckler was long gone.

But, oh, the aftermath.

The Rep decided to fire John Lacy for his actions. As a result of that decision, two other cast members quit in a move of solidarity, and then the rest of the production’s run was canceled.

All because of a 59-year old play that, in part, discusses sexual identity in a style that must be described as somewhat quaint by today’s standards. But that didn’t stop the heckler from expressing his opinion, and all of the rest that followed.

What Have We Learned

1. Old plays can still stimulate controversy.

2. There is at least one idiot among us.

3. It’s not nice to make John Lacy angry.

4. The Rep’s management apparently does not condone physically attacking theater patrons.

5. The Rep’s management apparently does condone heckling: nothing was done to stop it.

I must admit I have not been a supporter of the Rep. Nothing here will change that decision, for sure!


 Santa Clarita Signal: “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” Performances Canceled…. Santa Clarita Actor Fired….

New York Daily News: California Production of “Cat….

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