Advertisement

Climate change protesters disrupt Jeremy Strong's Broadway play 'An Enemy of the People'

Michael Imperioli and Jeremy Strong pose in black at "An Enemy of the People" press event
Michael Imperioli, left, and Jeremy Strong stayed in character as climate change protesters interrupted an interactive scene in their Broadway play "An Enemy of the People." (Bruce Glikas / WireImage via Getty images)

A trio of climate change protesters disrupted a Broadway preview of “An Enemy of the People” on Thursday night in what some audience members — including critics — initially thought was a scripted moment.

The disruption came during an immersive town hall scene in which the play’s protagonist, Thomas Stockmann ("Succession" alum Jeremy Strong), attempts to alert his fellow citizens to a deadly bacteria contaminating the resort town’s spa water. Strong and other onstage actors speak to audience members as though they are townspeople attending the forum.

As one of the play’s characters offered an objection, the first protester, Nate Smith of climate justice group Extinction Rebellion, stood and pronounced, “I object to the silencing of scientists,” according to videos of the disruptios posted on Extinction Rebellion NYC's X account. "There is no Broadway on a dead planet."

Read more: 'Enemy of the People' is the 19th century drama that still resonates with our pandemic-scarred society

Walking down a theater aisle, Smith apologized for the interruption and identified himself as a theater artist before being cut off by “Sopranos” alum Michael Imperioli, who plays Stockmann’s brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann.

“I’m sorry, you need to leave. You’re interrupting,” said Imperioli, still in character, before physically pushing Smith up the stairs.

After Smith was escorted out of the venue, a second protester, Lydia Woolley, shouted the names of Tim Martin and Joanna Smith, two activists who were arrested last year for smearing paint on a glass case enclosing a Degas sculpture at the National Gallery, as she was taken away. A third and final protester, Kyle Butler — sporting a shirt with the slogan “No Theatre on a Dead Planet” — rose up in a different section of the theater and began yelling. "Governments have failed us. They will do anything to stop you from learning the truth," he said.

Police reported to the scene but did not make any arrests after Circle in the Square Theatre management opted not to press charges.

Read more: Climate activists block roads across Europe to demand action

Extinction Rebellion explained the demonstration in a news release published Thursday.

“The climate and ecological crisis threatens everything on our planet, including the theater. This action and similar actions are the response of a movement that has no other recourse than to engage in unconventional means of protest to bring mass attention to the greatest emergency of our time,” the release read. “All normal means of affecting change appropriate to the scale of the catastrophe — including voting, petitioning, lobbying, etc. — have failed and continue to fail.”

“The play is really about ecological, water-based poisoning. So for that part to be layered and very meta was conscious,” Smith said in an interview with Time Out New York's Adam Feldman, who wrote that he thought the protesters’ demonstration was “a wall-breaking flourish intended to link the play explicitly to modern concerns.”

Read more: 'Sopranos' star Michael Imperioli forbids 'bigots and homophobes' from watching his movies and shows

At a press briefing last fall, the play's director, Tony Award winner Sam Gold, called the climate crisis “the animating emotional core of working on the play,” comparing Strong’s character to climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to say the truth,” Gold said, “to be able to say, 'You’re all being nuts, and I am just going to tell you the truth, which is we’re destroying the world.'”

Imperioli addressed the protest in an Instagram post on Thursday. “Tonight was wild … no hard feelings extinction rebellion crew. michael is on your side but mayor stockmann is not. much love.”

This revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 drama, adapted by Amy Herzog, began previews on Feb. 27 and opens March 18.

Get notified when the biggest stories in Hollywood, culture and entertainment go live. Sign up for L.A. Times entertainment alerts.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.