A man reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” at last night’s performance of A Fiddler on the Roof at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a man stood up in the mezzanine shortly after intermission began and shouted the pro-Hitler, pro-Trump slogans. He was escorted out of the theater by the Hippodrome’s on-site security team and police were called to meet him as he exited the building.
Connor Drew, a technical writer from Baltimore who attended the performance with his girlfriend, was in the lobby at intermission when security guards ran past him. “I heard some loudness coming from inside the theater. Maybe two minutes later, three security guards were escorting an older man out of the building.”
Drew returned to his seat for the second act to find the woman next to him visibly upset and wondering aloud in a phone call to her son if the man would be outside with a gun after the performance. “The whole room was pretty shaken,” Drew described. “Everyone continued to chatter for five minutes after the show began.”
It is unclear if the performers were aware of the incident before they performed act two of the musical. The performance continued without further incident and no formal statement was made at the theater after the show.
Fiddler on the Roof, the 1964 musical with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, music by Jerry Bock, and a book by Joseph Stein, tells the story of Tevye, a Russian Jew who struggles with maintaining Jewish traditions as his daughters grow and the Russian Tsar evicts Jews from the Russian village in 1905. The show is celebrated as one of the first post-Holocaust depictions of Jewish life in early 20th-century Eastern Europe.
“The second act was very tense,” Drew said. “Especially with that story from Fiddler. It’s a somber enough ending already, but it was amplified by those sad and fearful thoughts. I could hear crying all around me.”
The incident comes in the wake of the October 27th shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and has been attributed to anti-Semitic sentiment. According to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, incidences of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism rose 57% throughout the United States in 2017.
The Hippodrome condemned the incident in a written statement: “Behavior like we saw during intermission at Wednesday evening’s performance is not, and will not be, tolerated,” the statement reads. “Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life, right in the heart of this wonderfully diverse city, and we intend to continue that tradition in the spirit of bringing people together, not dividing them.”
The Hippodrome statement describes the man as an “offending audience member” and confirms that he was escorted out of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center by on-site security. “We employ a full team of professional security personnel,” the statement continued, “who are always on premise during live events to implement bag checks, provide screening and metal detection, and to monitor cameras throughout the venue.”
After returning from the theater last night, Drew shared his experience via Facebook, in a post that called on people to speak out against racist and anti-Semitic acts. “To pick Fiddler, of all shows… is no accident,” he wrote. “They set out to scare Jewish people. To make them afraid to see a show depicting the same anti-Semitic filth that occurred not even a lifetime ago in this world.”
People who are intolerant of races or religions feel “emboldened to spread hate,” Drew concluded. “Do not let their voices be the loudest ones.”