The audience reacts after a man interrupts the "Fiddler on the Roof" performance at the Hippodrome Theatre. (Video courtesy of Rich Scherr)
I attended the performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Hippodrome that was disrupted on Wednesday night. I would like to offer the perspective of someone sitting in the orchestra section and to present a qualified defense of The Baltimore Sun's reporting on the incident. I respectfully disagree with certain descriptions in Heather Blake's recent letter to the editor (“Theater goers fought against the man who screamed Hitler, Trump support at performance of Fiddler on the Roof,” Nov. 16). However, I understand and agree with some of her criticisms of how the audience and cast response to the incident was portrayed.
I was sitting very near an exit, and I did see perhaps two or three people walk very briskly out of the theater immediately after the shouting started up in the balcony section. I am not sure if their exit was exactly running out of the theater, but it was pretty close and essentially had the same intent. I was briefly concerned that some sort of violence was about to ensue, although I was somewhat reassured by the fact that the Hippodrome had done a pretty decent security check for those entering the theater. When the shouting and commotion started, I could not make out exactly what was being said and neither could to the folks who attended the play with me. It was clear that a number of audience members in the balcony were shouting at someone making a disturbance above us, however. Due to the design of the theater, we could not actually see what was going on up in the balcony from our seats. While we speculated that the disturbance was likely some sort of deeply unfortunate anti-Semitic rant, we really only learned the full details of what exactly had transpired above us the next day. There was no loudspeaker announcement about the incident at all, which I think frankly was a mistake as this lack of information left audience members even more confused and unsettled.
I completely defer to Ms. Blake and others of course in terms of what transpired in the balcony section, but I can say with some confidence that more than half of the total audience was not shouting at the man. Due to the design of the theater, most of the folks in the orchestra section just seemed primarily confused after a very brief flash of fear crossed many faces. I think that The Sun's reporting of the incident did get many details right, although I fully agree with Ms. Blake that The Sun's reporting did not correctly capture the spirit of resolve displayed by most audience members and by the brave cast members. Pretty much everyone either knew or guessed that something very unfortunate with anti-Semitic intent had happened. However, Ms. Blake is right that at least from what I saw the vast majority of audience members stayed put and watched the rest of the show. As for the cast, not only did the show go on but amazingly their performance after the unsettling disturbance at intermission was as flawless as before. The audience and cast response was not pandemonium but in general demonstrated a largely unspoken understanding that this person must not be allowed to stop the show and the play's important, timely message.