A man laced the atmosphere of a Baltimore theatre with menace when he began shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” during intermission of a classic play set in a Jewish village in czarist Russia.
The patron’s pro-Nazi and pro-Trump outburst during a Wednesday night production of “Fiddler on the Roof” sent panicked people running for the exits at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre.
Rich Scherr, a technology and financial journalist who was one of over 1,000 theatregoers attending the Wednesday night performance in Baltimore, said a man seated in the balcony was behind the commotion. He described stunned audience members freezing in fear when the man began shouting minutes into the intermission.
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“Everything just got really, really quiet. And then I heard this guy screaming: “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” he said in a Thursday phone interview. Other patrons told him they also heard the man yell about “MAGA,” President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
A few dozen people started running for the exits, according to Scherr, while others began calling out for security. Scherr said he braced for the possibility of gun violence in the packed theatre.
“You don’t want to think the worst, but I was preparing to react in case of gunfire,” Scherr said.
The theatre scare comes a few weeks after a gunman fatally shot 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. The suspect in that shooting, Robert Bowers, 46, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said.
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After several minutes, the offending theatregoer was quietly escorted out of the Baltimore theatre by security and the show continued without incident after the intermission ended. But Scherr said he thinks “everyone was shaken up” in the audience for the remainder of the night.
A Baltimore police spokeswoman, Det. ChakiaFennoy, said officers did respond to the Hippodrome at 9:40 p.m. Wednesday, but no arrest was made and no report was written. “The man just left on his own,” she said.
When asked why the police response ended there, Fennoy said she didn’t have more details to share.
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The Baltimore theatre said behaviour “like we saw during intermission” at Wednesday evening’s performance would not be tolerated. They said their security co-ordinated efforts with city police who met the man as he was escorted out of the building.
“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’s Thursday statement said.
“Fiddler on the Roof” is a bittersweet musical revolving around a poor Orthodox Jewish milkman, his rebellious daughters and other community members of a village in czarist Russia, and their faith that is tested by progress and repression. Set in 1905, it’s based on stories originally written in Yiddish by Sholom Aleichem.
The original Broadway production in 1964 starred Zero Mostel and had an almost eight-year run, offering the world such enduring songs as “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” It’s long been a staple for schools and community theatre groups.
The Wednesday night incident was first reported by The Baltimore Sun.