If you have ever wondered what happened to Thora Birch, the star of American Beauty, Ghost World, and Now and Then, there’s a clue in the New York Times: possibly she’s been contending with her cray-cray dad. Birch was just fired from an Off Broadway production of Dracula four days before the show was set to open because her father and longtime manager, Jack Birch, allegedly threatened another actor during rehearsals. Jack Birch denies this. (Though nothing undermines one’s credibility quite like being understatedly described by the Times as “Mr. Birch, a former adult film star.”) According to the play’s director, Paul Alexander, the kerfuffle went down when an actor was giving Thora a back rub during rehearsal.
The Times reports:
Mr. Birch asked the actor why he was rubbing Ms. Birch’s back during the scene. The actor - who none of the sides would name - said that he had been directed to do so as part of the scene. Mr. Birch objected, saying that the backrub was unnecessary, and told the actor to stop. (It is unusual for anyone other than a production’s director to instruct an actor.)
When the actor tried to explain further what he was doing, Mr. Birch said, according to Mr. Alexander: “Listen, man, I’m trying to make this easier on you - don’t touch her.”
Jack Birch denied “using those words” to the Times, and said Thora was “a little uncomfortable on stage because an actor kept rubbing her back. I was trying to convey Thora’s discomfort. In no way was I making a threat.” He was also on set in the first place because Thora Birch’s contract permits a bodyguard, and her father had taken on that job. “Thora had had some stalking issues in the past,” he explains. Birch for her part is “blindsided” by the firing and says, “My dad is my support, and he is the best support that I could ever have.”
The director — who says, “I can’t have one of my actors in a situation where is is physically threatened by the father of anyone” — adds some fuel to the crazy fire by saying, “It was odd to have Jack Birch around so much, but that it hadn’t really been a problem until Thursday.” During a rehearsal on that day he saw “Mr. Birch peering through a window that was part of a library set while a scene with Ms. Birch was underway. ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes and turned to a crew member and said, ‘Is that Jack Birch looking through the window at Thora?’’”
Jack Birch says he was only at the window because he was looking at a “a loose, very wobbly platform that Thora and others had to walk across.” Those creepy stage dads, always very attentive to loose platforms, and available for lurking.
Actress Thora Birch Fired From ‘Dracula’ [ArtsBeat/NYT]