If you’re involved with high school or middle school theatre, you really should be following the Backstage Jobs Blog. It’s a wonderful resource for all things technical and behind-the-scenes in the world of theatre.
They recently linked to a video from an absolutely disastrous production of Peter Pan in which set pieces easily crash to the ground and the crew flies the wrong actor:
I’ll direct you to the original post for a very detailed examination of the myriad of things that went wrong with this stunt. But I also want to weigh in with some of my own opinions.
There is a poster that is always on the callboard of when I’m working on a Canadian Equity show. There’s probably something similar in other jurisdictions. I’m paraphrasing, but it says something to the effect that no matter how good a stunt looks on stage, it’s not worth the life of a friend.
Flying someone is dangerous. Even in professional hands, it’s dangerous. Done poorly, it’s life-threatening. If you don’t have the budget to have a 100% safe and professional set-up, then guess what? Don’t do the show. There are thousands of other plays you can do, plays that will be equally entertaining to the audience, plays that will be challenging to the actors.
I also find the audience reaction troubling. They watch set pieces fall, they watch actors get slammed into set pieces, and what do they do? They giggle, they wait patiently, they applaud when the cast rallies. Yes, it’s high school theatre and things go wrong. The kids are at a very early stage of learning their craft and they’ll forget lines, miss entrances, etc. But this type of stuff is absolutely 100% inexcusable.
If you’re watching a production like this and love/know/care about anyone on stage, the appropriate reaction is to jump up, stop the show, get everybody out of those harnesses, and go to a nice restaurant for ice cream. The show must go on does not apply when someone’s life is in jeopardy.
If the chemistry class bought a set of beakers that shattered everytime they were near a Bunsen burner, how long do you think you’d have to wait for that lawsuit?