An audience member shouted pro-Nazi and pro-Trump slurs during a performance of Fiddler on the Roof on Wednesday night at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reported.
During the play’s intermission, a man who had been seated in the balcony began shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump” and holding his hand straight up in the Nazi salute, prompting immediate fear in other attendees.
“People started running,” audience member Rich Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go,'”
Samit Verma, another playgoer, told the Baltimore Sun via email that ushers rushed over to the man as other audience members quickly made their way into the hallway.
“The people around me appeared to be quite shaken by the incident,” he explained. “There were some people in tears.”
The man was escorted by security from the theater to applause from the audience, witnesses say, and police were called — though according to a police spokeswoman, he was not arrested. The play continued following his removal, but for some, the man’s outburst had a lasting negative effect.
“My heart was just racing. I didn’t even really pay attention to the second act,” Scherr said.
The racists definitely think you're racist.— Khary Penebaker, Fx (@kharyp) November 15, 2018
Man shouts 'Heil Hitler, Heil Trump' during intermission of Baltimore performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof' https://t.co/q1oAErJq85 pic.twitter.com/e6tYcYtg4L
Officials at the Hippodrome Theatre issued a statement via Twitter, in which they said behavior such as that displayed during Wednesday night’s performance would not be tolerated.
We do not tolerate behavior like we saw last night during intermission at “Fiddler.” Security handled the situation swiftly. Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life and we will continue that tradition.— Hippodrome Theatre (@HippodromeBway) November 15, 2018
“We apologize to those patrons who were affected by this unfortunate incident. 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 statement said.
Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a Jewish family as it faces persecution in tsarist Russia, and the incident immediately followed a scene that depicted a wedding being interrupted by a pogrom — an organized attack on a particular ethnic group.
“It is a story inherently about Jews being made not to feel welcome, and here is this bozo who decided to express that he felt we should not be welcome here either,” said audience member Theodore Casser, who is a person of the Jewish faith.
He noted that although he felt comfortable with how Hippodrome’s security team handled the incident, he was uneasy about it happening in a city with a sizable Jewish population.
“It’s a little sobering because it’s getting closer and closer to home,” he said. “How safe are any of us anyway?”
Baltimore Jewish Council director Howard Libit said he understood why theatergoers were fearful that the outburst could have signaled something more violent, and said the incident was concerning to the Jewish community.
“Things like that anywhere, much less crowded theaters, is a really potentially dangerous thing, you know. We’re all very sensitive and concerned in the wake of the recent shootings,” Libit said. “Shouting that seems to be the equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a theater, or shouting ‘bomb.'”
Audience member Alan Brigida told the Baltimore Sun that although he is not Jewish, he was saddened and pained by the outburst on behalf of those of the Jewish faith or culture who were present.
“We don’t feel that pain every day, but I felt it then,” Brigida said. “Although I’m not Jewish, I felt Jewish when I heard those words at that performance.”