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Broadway Shockers 2018: Nazi Salute at Fiddler on the Roof

One Baltimore theatergoer shouted, "Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!" during an intermission of the national touring production.

As 2018 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year.

The bottle dance from the national touring production of Fiddler on the Roof.
(© Joan Marcus)

The Wednesday, November 14, evening performance of Fiddler on the Roof at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre capped its first act with the typical intermission activity: Antsy viewers raced for the bathroom, while thirsty ones took their positions around the bar. Yet one audience member took the opportunity to voice an unexpected response to this beloved musical about generational rifts in a Jewish shtetl circa 1906: "Heil Hitler!" shouted Anthony M. Derlunas II from his balcony seat, chasing that Nazi salute with an equally alarming, "Heil Trump!"

Brian Ferdman, who provides open captioning services to theaters across America, was working the Hippodrome that night and heard the whole thing. "I was seated in the third row of the orchestra," he recalls, "I suddenly heard shouting from the balcony. Specifically, I heard, 'Heil Trump.' Everyone got really quiet and one man on the floor shouted, 'Get the hell out of here, you Nazi!'"

Derlunas was promptly escorted from the Hippodrome by security, served by police with a "stop ticket" (carrying no fine), and told by management that he was banned from the venue for life.

Reporters caught up with Derlunas in the following days, and he insists that he isn't a Nazi. Rather, he claims that he was inspired by the first act finale (depicting a Jewish wedding interrupted by a pogrom) to compare the Nazi führer to the current President, whom he claims to dislike. He also explained that he was quite drunk at the time, and didn't anticipate the hostile reaction of the audience. "I'm so disgusted and upset with myself," he told WJZ's Mike Hellgren.

Readers may be skeptical of his theatrical mea culpa, especially when open expressions of anti-Semitism have become distressingly commonplace. More frightening is the prospect that the public cry of "Heil Hitler" could be the overture to an act of terrible violence, an understandable assumption in the age of mass shootings (including the one at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue, which took place just weeks before this incident).

Luckily, this seems to be just another case of a drunk behaving badly in public: not nearly as shocking as an actual Nazi paying Broadway tour prices in order to intimidate the audience, but unpleasant nonetheless. May the Lord protect and defend you from such antics the next time you attend the theater.