At last night’s performance of Straight White Men on Broadway, a family drama about social privilege, Kate Bornstein — the legendary author, actor and trans activist who delivers a prologue before the play — was heckled by an audience member. A woman in the audience shouted out “You’re not welcome here!” at Bornstein. Their co-stars Armie Hammer and Josh Charles both called the heckler out on Twitter, and Bornstein wrote a response on Facebook this morning.
Straight White Men is Kate Bornstein’s Broadway debut. (In addition, the playwright, Young Jean Lee, is the first Asian-American woman to have her play produced on Broadway.) The play is about three sons who go back home to visit their widowed dad over Christmas. Call Me By Your Name‘s Armie Hammer plays Drew, the youngest son who is a famous novelist.
The play also features a framing device, where two actors, Person In Charge #1 and #2 (played by Kate Bornstein and Two-Spirit actor Ty Defoe), present the play’s action in a way that combines traditional theater with performance art. The two People in Charge are both intended to be played by trans actors, and act as “docents” for the show. Bornstein explains their role is to make the audience comfortable, and so they spend about a half hour before the show ad libbing.
The show opens with Bornstein’s character greeting the audience with “Good Evening, ladies, gentlemen and the rest of us.” Last night, though, after this line, a woman shouted back “You’re not welcome here!” at Kate Bornstein.
While the woman hasn’t been identified — and we assume she was escorted out of the performance — Armie Hammer broke the news on Twitter: “To the woman in our audience who felt it was appropriate to yell, ‘You’re not welcome here!’ at Kate Bornstein, our beloved friend, co-worker, and now family member….. feel free never to come back.”
Hammer and Bornstein’s costar, Josh Charles chimed in, but was more blunt. He added, “And also feel free to go fuck yourself, lady.” Charles also said that he only heard about the heckling of Kate Bornstein after the performance, but described the situation as “sickening.”
This morning, Bornstein wrote about their heckler. They wrote:
“I’m deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support in response to an attempted shaming of me that happened during a performance of Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men on Broadway last night. …
“The cast, crew, and company of Straight White Men have been warm, welcoming, and inclusive of me and the other trans actors in the show, Ty Defoe and T.L. Thompson. … So, I don’t know who she thought she was talking about when she claimed that I’m not welcome. I was not shamed by her. I was puzzled. What could have caused this woman’s outburst?
“I’ve been chewing that over, and the best I can come up with is that one of her children or grandchildren has gone through a gender transition that troubled her greatly, to the point that she just boiled over when I took the stage. Look, Straight White Men is a great work of art. And great art does upset people. It happens all the time. Please know that I’m not upset, or afraid. I’m more than ever proud to be part of this show.”
Straight White Men is playing at the Hayes Theater and runs through Sept. 9, 2018.