Bedbugs and Backstage Tension Were Factors in Scuttling of NYC's The Balcony, Players Say

By Adam Hetrick
23 Oct 2012

Participants in Horizon Theatre Rep's cancelled production of The Balcony at Off-Off-Broadway's ArcLight Theatre are clarifying details about the show's shuttering, which was first attributed to the discovery of bedbugs backstage.

On Oct. 19, a representative for Horizon Theatre Rep's artistic director Rafael De Mussa issued a statement that the revival of the Jean Genet play The Balcony was scuttled after cast members reported they had been bitten by bedbugs backstage Oct. 10, the day before performances were to begin. The rental production was to play an Oct. 11-Nov. 4 engagement at the ArcLight.

De Mussa was forced to postpone the play's opening to allow for the extermination, and added at the time that restarting the run was not ultimately possible, citing another show already scheduled to move into the ArcLight Nov. 8.

Following the publication of the story on Oct. 19, was contacted by members of the production team, who wanted to shed light on Horizon Theatre Rep's original statement. They included director Frank Licato, ArcLight owner Michael Griffiths and cast members. In addition, Licato, De Mussa and the actors involved took to Twitter and Facebook to share their own accounts of the story.

"Like some of the nicest hotels and movie theatres in New York have recently experienced, we did find evidence of bedbugs in the dressing room and responded immediately by having a [New York]-state certified extermination company come and perform a thorough extermination with repeated follow ups," the venue's Griffiths told in a statement. "Thousands of dollars were spent to ensure a safe environment for the actors, crew and audience and we did present documentation to Mr. De Mussa to verify that problem was taken care of. The stage manager reported to me that the cast and crew were happy with our attention to this matter and were ready to resume rehearsal within 24 hours."

He continued, "It was also reported by the stage manager to me that Mr. De Mussa, who also cast himself in the production (as well as producing it), was experiencing major problems with the cast and director because of his producing inefficiencies and that they had decided to walk out of the production and that their choice had nothing to do with the previous bedbug incident."

De Mussa countered that he received an e-mail from ArcLight management team, suggesting "that 'bed bugs are a human parasite' and it was 'likely and probable the bugs came in via one of your cast members or one of the casts from the other shows.'" According to De Mussa, a certificate from Griffiths verifying that the theatre was free of bedbugs was never provided, as promised, and the company "could not responsibly invite the public to the theatre without adequate assurance that the bedbug infestation had been eliminated." De Mussa also added that concerned cast members had e-mailed him and were afraid they could not return to the venue without risking further bites.