A trio of climate change protesters disrupted a performance of “An Enemy of the People,” starring Jeremy Strong, on Broadway Thursday night, shouting “no theater on a dead planet” as they were escorted out.

The show they disrupted is the best-selling new play on Broadway, thanks to audience interest in Strong, who is riding a wave of fame stemming from his portrayal of Kendall Roy in the HBO drama “Succession.” Strong stars in the play as a physician who becomes a pariah after discovering that his town’s spa baths are contaminated with bacteria; revealing that information could protect public health, but endanger the local economy.

The protest, before a sold-out crowd at the 828-seat Circle in the Square theater, confused some attendees, who initially thought it was part of the play. It was staged during the second half, during a town hall scene in which some audience members were seated onstage and some actors were seated among the audience members. Although the play was written by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century, this new version, by Amy Herzog, has occasionally been described as having thematic echoes of the climate change crisis.

Strong remained in character through the protest, even at one point saying that a protester should be allowed to continue to speak, said Jesse Green, a critic for The New York Times who was among many journalists and critics who were in the audience for a press preview night. “I thought it was all scripted,” Green said. “The timing was perfect to fit into the town meeting onstage, and the subject was related.”

The protest was staged by a group called Extinction Rebellion NYC, which last year disrupted a performance at the Met Opera and a match at the U.S. Open semifinals. Other climate protesters around the world have taken to defacing works of art hanging in museums, but a spokesman for the New York group said that it had not engaged in that particular protest tactic.

A spokesman for Extinction Rebellion NYC, Miles Grant, explained the targeting of popular events by saying, “We want to disrupt the things that we love, because we’re at risk of genuinely losing everything the way things are going.”

The police were on the scene, but said they did not make any arrests after the theater’s management opted not to press charges.

The protest began when a man got up during the town hall scene and began to shout about climate change. Two of the actors in the play, David Patrick Kelly and Michael Imperioli, in character, told the man he had to leave, according to witnesses and a video of the disruption. As the first protester was escorted out, another rose up in a different section of the theater. Some members of the audience booed, and there were cheers when she was escorted out. Then a third protester sprung up.

Even though the police arrived, some audience members left the show still unsure whether the protest had been part of the performance or not.

Maria Cramer contributed reporting.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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