SANTA ANA — Still reeling from swastikas and other graffiti splashed on the theater over the weekend, the director of the Way Off Broadway Playhouse said he discovered hate mail addressed to the theater Monday.
The twin attacks were apparently in reaction to an interracial relationship featured in the play now showing at the theater.
Artistic director Tony Reverditto said that his mail Monday included a picture torn from a newspaper review of the current play, which stars black actor Godfrey Huguley and white actress Amylynn Harootian. "Over the picture of both of them is the word why, and there are squiggly lines in green ink all over the picture and the review," Reverditto said.
On Sunday morning, Reverditto and Robert Embree, an associate producer, arrived at the theater, at 1058 E. 1st St., to discover that someone had spray-painted racial hate slogans and swastikas on its exterior.
"At first I thought it was a joke, you know? Then when I read the racial slurs (among the graffiti), I knew it was far from a joke," Reverditto said.
The vandalism is being investigated by police as a hate crime and malicious mischief, said Santa Ana Police Lt. Robert Helton.
The incidents were denounced Monday by others in the Santa Ana arts community and by the chairwoman of the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
The production is Y York's "Rain. Some Fish. No Elephants." It centers on a family surviving after a global ecological disaster in an authoritarian society ruled by leaders who have outlawed love, books, art and dancing.
The interracial relationship is not the main issue of the sci-fi comedy, Reverditto said.
Huguley, a tall, gangly actor, plays a robotic servant referred to in the play as a "Blackie." The family's elder daughter gets pregnant by the "Blackie," and there is a short scene in which the two embrace and cuddle.
Police said that skinhead gangs are known to paint swastikas, but Helton said that Santa Ana doesn't have any formal skinhead gangs.
"And in incidents of this type, it's pretty difficult to label the guilty party as skinheads when it could just be someone upset at the theater group or who didn't like the plot of the story," he said.
Among those denouncing the incidents were Becky Esparza, chairwoman of the Orange County Human Relations Commission. "Unfortunately, people are carrying out a lot of their hatred. It's a shame and an ignorant way to do it," she said.
Brian Langston, director of public relations and marketing at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, said the community is "dismayed and anguished about it."
The introduction of cross-cultural ideas in plays and events can only improve racial understanding and help overcome racial hatred and bigotry, Langston said.
Reverditto said the play, which runs through May 17, has been very popular.
As added security, Reverditto said, he will hire a guard to stand by during future performances.