Several Ole Miss students, including some of the university’s football players, heckled a production of The Laramie Project, targeting the cast with anti-gay slurs Oct 1, The Daily Mississippian reports.
A theatre faculty member who directed the play, based on the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, told The Mississippian that audience members used the word "fag," taunted the cast about their body types and sexual orientations, called out to the female actors, and were talking on and taking photos with cellphones.
Cast members said the taunting created such a disturbance that they had a hard time getting through the performance.
The football players, through one team member, apologized after the athletics department called on them to do so, but theatre department chair René Pulliam is quoted as saying that it wasn't clear that the players "truly understood what they were apologizing for." The play's director, Rory Ledbetter, echoed Pulliam's observation.
"The unfortunate part of all of this is that I don’t think that the audience members that caused these problems really understood what they were doing,” he said in the report. “Further education on all of this needs to be brought to light.”
Ledbetter also pointed out the irony that the heckling and anti-gay remarks occurred during a production that highlights "these topics of hate against homosexuals."