A chain reaction of panic led to an early end for Tuesday night’s performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway after people in Times Square wound up crowding into the Shubert Theatre lobby, reportedly driven by what they thought were gunshots.
“There is no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots,” the New York Police Department’s Midtown North Division tweeted a little after 10 p.m. Eastern. “We are recieving [sic] multiple 911 calls. Please don’t panic. The Times Square area is very safe!”
Actor Gideon Glick, who plays Dill Harris in “Mockingbird,” tweeted that “Screaming civilians tried to storm our theater for safety” after mistaking the backfiring for gunfire. The audience started screaming as well, and the cast fled the stage, he said.
The panicked pedestrians also fled into nearby Sardi’s restaurant for safety after what a witness said were two or three backfires, Deadline reported. It all happened during the final scene of the play, which stars Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch.
The panic comes in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso on Saturday and Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday.
Tony-winning actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, who plays Scout in the show, told the night’s story from her perspective in a series of tweets.
“Tonight during my last speech in the play there was panic at our theater because a motorcycle backfired near Shubert Alley & people believed there was an active shooter & tried to get into the theater for safety. This was terrifying for the audience who heard screaming & banging on the doors, so they hid or ran & tried to flee,” she wrote.
“It was terrifying for us [on stage] because we didn’t know what was happening or what to do. Our security and stage management did an amazing job of keeping people safe and as calm as possible.
“I’m still processing the whole experience but all I can think about are the young people who’ve had to go through the actual thing. The trauma and fear that they have had to endure and what something like that does to a young person’s brain. We cannot go on like this.”