The real drama was offstage at Monday night’s rehearsal reading of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Classic Stage Company, after a member of the audience rose and wandered in the direction of the actors’ dressing rooms while the performers were working on the piece.According to theater executives involved with Classic Stage Company, an Off Broadway house in the East Village, the Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham — who was attending as an audience member — noticed the man slipping out toward the dressing rooms. Mr. Abraham got up and spoke to the house manager, and the two of them went backstage and found the man hiding under a table in a dressing room.
The house manager shouted that a robbery was underway while Mr. Abraham and the man scuffled, with the intruder punching Mr. Abraham. Cast members ran backstage as the intruder fled; in the aftermath, company members discovered that a bag belonging to the actress Martha Plimpton — who was participating in the reading — as well as a wallet belonging to another actress were missing.
The police were soon on the scene, and Mr. Abraham and Ms. Plimpton went to a nearby police station to fill out a report. Mr. Abraham did not require medical attention, only a bag of ice. The police are continuing to investigate.
In an e-mail to The Times on Tuesday, one audience member provided a description of the incident that matched the account of the theater executives, while adding that the intruder was a young, tall African-American male.
The artistic director of Classic Stage Company, Brian Kulick, and its executive director, Jessica R. Jenen, released a statement on Tuesday afternoon:
“We are deeply grateful to F. Murray Abraham for his heroic intervention last evening, as well as to the entire acting ensemble that rushed to his defense. This is yet another shining example of the resilience and deep dedication of New York’s extraordinary acting community that not only stopped an intruder mid-crime but then rushed back onstage to continue the show. They have our deepest respect and thanks.”