It seems some audience members are more interested in claiming the spotlight for themselves than paying attention to Willy Loman.
At the December 27 performance of Death of a Salesman, an audience member rushed to the front of the auditorium to yell at Wendell Pierce, currently starring in the seminal Arthur Miller play. To his credit, Pierce did his best to defuse the situation, reasoning with the patron while attempting to direct them to the lobby of the theatre, so the performance could continue. The patron and their theatregoing partner refused, and were eventually escorted out by law enforcement. Reasoning for the patron's outburst is unclear.
Videos of the incident immediately spread across various social media platforms, with numerous audience members expressing their shock.
Said Pierce to the audience member, seemingly channeling Willy Loman in speech and stance, "Hold on! Talk to me, talk to me. I'll make a deal with you. I'll make a deal with you. I'm going to ask them to let you stay. Hold on, hold on, I'll make a deal with you. Ma'am, I'll make a deal with you, alright? You can stay, but we have a show to do."
Later in the video, Pierce offers to personally give the patron their money back, but the patron appears to disregard him completely. Other audience members soon began to yell at the patron as the stage manager urged the cast to leave the stage.
@deanshareski Replying to @slimjim2246 #broadway #deathofasalesman #hudsontheatre ♬ original sound - Dean Shareski
In another video of the incident, Pierce can be seen cautioning the audience as they began to audibly admonish the disruptive patron, declaring, "Hold on! I've waited TOO LONG for this! You've waited too long for this!" He then turned back to the patron in question, saying, "If you would like your money back, I will guarantee your money back."
@playbill @BroadwayWorld @Salesman_Bway Unfortunate disruption at beginning of Act 2 of the terrific Death of a Salesman tonight. 1-2 #playbill #broadway #SalesmanOnBroadway #newyorkcity pic.twitter.com/Kk5rcb6BNE— Robert Stein (@robertstein100) December 28, 2022
In a Reddit post responding to the incident, one audience member shared the following account: "I was there, 4 seats away from the lady. She was seated with her husband front row center. During act 1 she was constantly going through her bag loudly, and yelling responses to what the actors were saying. She was very obviously drunk and/or high. During intermission her husband tried to get her to leave. They made their way to the back of the theatre as act 2 was starting then a little while later she starts screaming at the top of her lungs that she wasn't leaving and if she couldn't see the rest of the show neither would anyone else.
"She made her way back to the front of the stage, still screaming, when the show was stopped and house lights were brought up. Wendell Pierce tried to reason with her but she didn't buy it. Husband kept demanding their money back. Pierce told the usher to grab money from petty cash to pay them, but around then the cops came."
After the couple was ushered out of the theatre, the show resumed from the top of the scene.
When reached for a comment, the producers of Death of a Salesman told Playbill, "We’re grateful to the entire team at the Hudson Theatre for working together to resolve the situation and resume the performance as quickly as possible.”
The incident is the newest in a pattern of inappropriate behavior carried out by audience members following the return to live performance following the COVID-19 shutdown. Informal reports of audience members utilizing brightly lit cellular devices, talking over performances, and singing along with performers have increased sharply—in addition to more dramatic cases of misbehavior, including an incident where an audience member argued with Patti LuPone during a talkback of Company or the leaking of photographs taken of the nude scenes in Take Me Out.
Pierce, who earned an Olivier nomination for his performance in this production's West End premiere, stars in Death of a Salesman alongside Olivier winner Sharon D Clarke, Khris Davis, McKinley Belcher III, Tony winner André De Shields, Blake DeLong, Lynn Hawley, Grace Porter, Kevin Ramessar, Stephen Stocking, Chelsea Lee Williams, and Delaney Williams. Melvin Abston, Jerome Preston Bates, Brandon E. Burton, Maya Jackson, Lisa Strum, Chris Thorn, and Shona Tucker serve as understudies.
Miranda Cromwell directs this current revival, which follows a traveling salesman and his family who are caught up in the madness of the all-too-often unreachable "American Dream." The work debuted on Broadway in 1949 and won six Tony Awards for its premiere run.
The production continues at the Hudson Theatre through January 15, 2023.