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Date: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 17:28:45 CST
Mailing-List: Stagecraft-mail
Subject: Accidents (Subjects varied message to message)

First off, if you are coming in directly from the URL posted to stagecraft-mail, you are missing alot of good stuff on the front page. Second, we have spelling conserns in the list (grin). Well, all these stories are posted here with their original spelling. Don't blame me. These stories are also only posted after permission has been granted from the author. So far, only one has refused.

So, here now -- so you can feel better about yourself (at least until you look at the address and see that it's yours) -- stories of accidents that hurt, embaress and could have been avoided:

John H. Landon of West Texas A&M University ( seems to have been out of his pond when:

I had to focus lights for touring ballet once, and only once. I was atop an A-frame ladder some 20 feet in the air. A tremendous height for a carpenter. I was being wheeled along the electric one instrument at a time, cautioning my handlers to "start slow and stop smooth". My head was just below the lenses.

All the lamps had been hung, cabled and left in a straight down position. I would grab each one gently and slowly focus it so I did not sway any more than I had to. As I slowly tilted one PAR 64 . . . I felt a heavy blunt thud on the top of my head and scared a "Woow" out of me. As I looked down I saw a full roll of black gaf floating toward the stage! First I yelled heads to my handlers below and then to the electricians that this is the last time they get me up here for there amusement!

The round black gaf had gone unnoticed on the back of the round black PAR 64. As a TD today, I still check the tops of insturments and the tops of raceways on electrics for gaf and tools (found a C-wrench once, and a screwdriver another time)

An anonymous (Yes, there was a guy that wanted to be anonymous) posted something, then mailed me a more complete story:

During the dismantling of a set, I had a screw gun fall into my eye. The gun had no leash on it. My co-worker was, at that moment, up a ladder and trying to get into position to remove a screw holding two flats together. The gun caught on the set-piece and came out of his hand, and fell about five feet. I got three stitches in the lower lid, near the lash, and two above the eye. No, I wasn't wearing a hardhat.

Jerry Ford, T.D., San Jacinto College Central ( probally now has a note on his calander -- Warning: Dates on calander are closer then they appear--:

Twelve years ago I was working as LD with a contractor bidding on the Singapore National Exhibition. We finally managed to get a meeting scheduled when the Bristish folks, the Singaporeans, the US contractor and I could all get together here in Houston. But the date was earlier than I had anticipated, and I had not made the dozens of blueprints needed. A lot of pleading at the bluprint shop got them in my hands just in time for the meeting. Everyone was assembled in a small meeting room, and, when I unrolled the fresh drawings, the ammonia smell was overwhelming. I quickly got the drawings outside to air out, and returned, more than a little embarrassed, where we went on to other agenda items. When I finally brought the drawings in to distribute, with ammonia levels more acceptable now, a secretary came in and announced that my wife was on the phone - in labor. I ran out, leaving the drawings, and my son was delivered the next morning.

Joe Marin ( will never tell the union electriction joke again:

Never take that last wrap of rope off the pin of an unbagged electric. My M.E. luckily caught both feet on the pin rail on the way up or I would have had the electric on the deck and my electrician in the ceiling.

Corollary: Always drop what you are doing when you hear a shrill, "Hey Guys....uh, help!"

Don Taco <> sent in:

only a few months ago, i happened to be in place to watch a light rigger (not some untrained amateur, but a competent designer volunteer), leave his crescent wrench on top of the 12' ladder, move the ladder, and get hit on the head by the wrench. it raised quite a lump. he knew it was his own fault. this was a friday work party, and on the next sunday, at a theatre board meeting, i heard the story of how another volunteer on saturday had started to move a ladder backstage, and had been surprised by being hit on the head by a crescent wrench that was left on top of the ladder... apparently, even after being hit on the head, the first rigger had not learned his lesson, and managed to hurt someone else as well as himself.

i like to promote the 'prestige' value of having your wrench 'clipped' to your belt, a 'badge of office', if you will. it prevents you fromsetting it down in dangerous places and forgetting...

Kathie Stephens of Ball State University ( probally would have had another satsified worker if he was one of those that didn't think much...

Two summers ago, at the first Muncie Civic/Ball State Summer Theatre Season, one of my employees, who was originally an employee of Muncie Civic, left a Makita screw gun with a phillips head bit on top of a 14' ladder, moved the ladder, and naturally the screw gun fell. He was going to be smartand let it fall until he had time to think "Oh S***!! Its a Ball State Screw Gun!" and tried to catch it. Of coarse, the gun landed bit down in the center of his hand.

Morals: --Don't leave anything on top of a ladder.

--If you do, and it falls, don't try to catch it, no matter who it belongs to. The Screw gun can be replaced, your hand may not be fixable.

--Don't ever be so afraid of your boss that you are willing to put your hand or your life on the line for her/him. Chances are, they really are not all that bad.

Mitch Fore, the Lighting Designer/Technical Director for the Department of Dance at the Uuniversity of North Carolina in Greensboro, NC ( has a long introduction to another ladder story. He is also the one I will credit with giving me the idea for including this in my threads secton of my web page with his last comment below:

The first occurred during a summer season (1976, I think; boy, do I feel old!) at Dogwood Dell, a municipal ampitheatre. TD left a hammer on top of a stepladder. He suffered a concussion and was out for almost a week when the hammer found his head on its way down.

The second occurred a couple of years later during a production of "A Christmas Carol." One of the carpenters left a drill with a wood bit in it (3/8" or so) atop a short stepladder. When he went to move the ladder, he succumbed to the instinct of trying to catch the falling drill: pierced a hole right through his hand. He was very fortunate that it did no permanent damage. Left a pretty cool scar, though.

I hope teachers of technical production classes are archiving some of these stories (I certainly am!). Good thread.

Bill S. ( apperantly hired a sharp LD once.

I had a guy climbing a ladder who was into knives. Really into knives. (Those of you who know who I mean should keep quiet). Anyway, he had this double edged commando thing that had a little clip into it's sheath. Well, it unclipped itself and stuck into the deck right next to my TD. This was a bad idea.

Jay Herzog (, who teaches Lighting Design at Towson State University posted this. I think it belongs in the movies:

Dangling by my one hand as a 1.5" pipe broke beneath my feet at Candlewood Playhouse. Don't try this one. Especially with an audience of actors getting notes looking on. It scared them more than me.

This was in my much younger and stupider days. PS: The pipe was at 16 feet.

Later, Jay posted this to the same thread:

Brad's scafold story made me remember another brief, but wonderful moment in my tech history. Last year I designed a show in Cairo, Egypt. There the caster on the scafold broke as well. The electician focusing the unit leaped from the scaffold shaken, but not harmed. A minute later, the TD for the theatre told the crew member to get back up on the scaffold. They argued (screamed at each other) for 3 minutes. Although it was in Arabic, I knew the crew member had been fired. After an other moment, the crew member and the TD embraced, the crew member climbed back up the scaffold, and for the remaining hour and a half, 4 other crew members lifted the corner of the broken scaffold and were the replacement parts for the scaffold.

What a night that was. Obviously jobs are few!

Roy Harline, the Technical Director for the Texas Woman's University (s_harline@VENUS.TWU.EDU) got stuck. Can you believe it? The Texas Woman's University has a system called Venus. (Note: address change to Aug, '97)

Okay it wasn't really an accident, but it was funny. We were dead hanging a set piece from the grid, and I had to reach through the channel steel to fish some rope around something or other. Well, I reached down past my elbows, and then my body wieght shifted. I could not for the life of me get up. there I was with two arms through the grid, on my knees with my head resting on the grid, sore from laughing at my employees laughing at me. Finally after suffiecient threats, the helped me shift the wieght back, and I could free my arms. Bill hated being called stumpy, I still have an employee that calls me "stucky".

Combining a scaffolding thread running at the time, Brad McLean, the Part time LD, full time geek ( wrote this:

Just this past summer I was doing some focus touchups from the top of an old rickety 2 1/2 section steel scaffold over the chairs in an uneven house (with levelers, though). As I began to wrap in my legs at the top of one of the lower side corners in order to free my hands for focus, the other lower side corner caster broke off, causing that post to rather abruptly become over a foot shorter.

I don't think I've ever swung faster from one scaffold post to another then when I moved to the upper side corner away from the broken caster. I do remember the stage manager using a hither-to unheard register of her voice to summon rapid assistance to shore up that leg. I climbed down and walked away, a little unsteadily.

Examination of the broken caster showed that there was a single nut holding the caster assembly onto the threaded end of the approx 1" diameter steel rod that ran up into the scaffold leg. The entire 5/4" length of threads was flattened, although the nut was only 3/8" thick or so. Clearly, this nut had been loose for years.

Morals of this story: I'm very glad that there were other people in the building, and that all of the locking pins were in place between scaffold sections. And if your scaff shakes, find out why *before* (duh!) you work on it for three days.

Michael Powers, the Technical Director for The Meadow Brook Theatre ( learned that if you almost manage to give people what they want, they will still thank you for trying:

My most memorable accident happened back in '63 when I was a sophomore Theatre major. (I also posted this on a "Directors from Hell" thread on another service). It was first dress and the director was, to be kind, slightly lacking in people skills. It was pushing 1 a.m. and we were still on act I. The director had, among other things, stopped a scene to have an actor/techie in costume climb a ladder to a house port to make a 3" change in a shutter cut. I had done the FX and rigging for the show, and after a scene where a letter comes floating down from the flies (which had worked perfectally for over a week) He decided to run the scene over again.... with the letter drop. We were working in a converted theatre space and the only access to the grid was up the stairs at the back of the house, through the light booth, down a row of wooden planks laid over the rafters, crawl over the grid on the rafters under the roof joists which were about 30" high at this point. So while an entire company waited, at 1 a.m., I (also in costume, an actor techie then myself) took off for the grid. On the return trip, I was in too big a hurry, very tired (notice how often this element enters into the accident picture?) and slipped off the planks, putting one foot through the ceiling and knocking a 2' x 3' chunk of plaster down to land one foot away from the director. At the end of the year awards, I received the golden stage screw award for the biggest mistake of the year.... I Missed him!!

Michael Posted another story later, and gave me permission to use it ahead of time:

I will confess to being involved in an accident which actually injured someone (me). It was back in '70 or '71. After a little vacation in S.E. Asia (sponcered and paid for by my know ..Sam) and a few years out in the real world, I was back in grad school. We were building a set of legs and borders out of "artisticly" clipped, shapped and gathered burlap. The University had acquired commercial grommet punch and die set machines. They worked by a very heavy spring and trip hammer mechnism, i.e. you stepped on a pedel just as the pedel hit bottom, the machine punched a hole or set the grommet in one swell foop. It was tired and we were late, or something like that, ( here we go again with tired and long hours) Joan was punching holes and I was setting grommets. The grommet procedure was: High hat,...... webbing,...... washer,...... stomp - high hat,... webbing,... washer,...stomp - high hat,..webbing,..washer,..stomp-highhatwebbingthumbsto mp. "Uh, Joan? I've got a problem!". We cut a 3" circle out of the top the webbing and headed for the Med center. Have you ever tried to explain to an ER nurse at 3:00 a.m. why/how you have a piece of burlap and jute webbing attached to your thumb with a brass grommet?? To show our youthful folly, after getting my thumb out of the curtain, we went back and finished the job that night. And yes, the border sagged a bit where the grommet and tie were missing. To this day, my thumb tells me when the weather is going to change.

And Pk,Cp you have my permission in advance to post this if you wish.

Stan ( came up with three stories:

I have been amazingly lucky to not have been at the wrong place at the wrong time too much in my career thus far (knock on wood) but I have had a couple hairy experiences. One involved an A-frame ladder that sat (just sat, not bolted or tied) on a wheel base. I got in the habit of moving myself around the stage by grabbing a pipe (dead hung) and pulling. Well, one time I pulled two ot the legs of the ladder off the wheelbase and suddenly found myself at a very stressful angle on the ladder. To make things worse, the ladder was close to the edge of the stage and was, due to the angle of the dangle, being pushed ever closer to disaster by my weight. I screamed. The sound guys came and saved me and I never heard the end of it.

My second entry in this journal of horrors: I was on the stage at a "shed" type venue (50' to grid or so) and I heard an odd "clinking" sound. I looked straight up to see a trim chain hurtling faceward at terminal velocity. I shifted to one side and heard a sickening WHAM as the chain smashed into the deck. I knew I had an audience so I just calmly went about my business like nothing happened.

Oh...wait there is one more. I was doing steel for a rock show (heavy duty scaffolding) at an outdoor venue. We had just taken down the SL sound tower; we were down to the last couple of pieces. Some cluefully impared stagehand left a 9' upright standing all alone with no other steel supporting it. I was incredulous. I mean, that's really hard to do besides being stupid. So I am walking toward the steel and I notice it is starting to FALL OVER and there is some poor shmuck standing innocently in its path. I ran toward the tower of death and grabbed it at the last minute before momentum carried it beyond hope fo stopping it. Nobody on the crew saw this happen. The guy who almost got his head smashed in turned around and looked at me like I was insane. I didn't bother to explain. I just took the steel and put it in the rack

Susan Rankin <srankin@Op.Net> should have a Venus address. ;) You did good, Susan!

Hi all, first post for on accidents yet! @:} Well, it wasn't quite an accident, more of an accident that -almost- happened. I was, I believe. a senior in high school at the time. The director, a techie, and myself were checking and matching up the fly-ins to their ropes. I had observed the directional pull of the pulleys and had made mental notes on this. We were about to lower a particularly heavy fly-in, heavy due to the curtain skirt to hide the lighting, that was on it. Just beforehand, I noticed that the director and techie had a hold of the wrong side, and were in danger of, well, getting their hands mangled in the pulley. I stopped them and pointed out their error, and, being a kid (and I'm sure being a girl also had something to do with it) they blew me off. "Ok," I said. "I just grab the other side here to be sure." So I did. the lever was released by the director's foot and sure enough, the rope tugged the way I said it would. They panicked and let go. Fortunatelt, I was not a small teenager. Having been 5'10" and 160 ibs, I wasn't lifted -too- far off the ground! They stood and stared at the pulley until I'd said, "Ummm, excuse me, a little help here for the gal that just saved you a trip to the hospital?" I didn't even get a Biggest Mistake Award! @:(

Kim Hartshorn <> has one of the only stories about gravity that does not involve a ladder:

...and then there was the time a hurry cause i wanted to get home....i reached behind the curtain and hit the button to send the stage lift down to the basement...

ran down the stairs to meet it...opened the double doors...slammed a few wagons of platforms onto the lift...and then had a creepy feeling...

looking up...directly over my head...was the pipe organ console, balanced precariously over the edge of the stage...i quietly closed the doors to the lift...tiptoed up the stairs..held my breath and crossed my fingers as the lift came back up and slid without incident back under the console....


a.s.s.u.m.e. makes an ass out of u and me (Roger Mangin) could write a book on political correctness:

The thread on "most memorable accident" has been both informative and entertaining. Perhaps an adjunct thread on most memorable embarassment would be as interesting. My contribution:

Years ago I was sound operator for "Tea in a China Cup". The sound design consisted of hours of twiddling thumbs punctuated by 90-second intervals of intense activity (a dozen cues tightly spaced, overlapping, crossfading, with every tape deck in the booth rolling).

As one of these periods of intense activity was approaching I awaited a standby from the Stage Manager. No word came, so I tried to call the SM --- no response. I tried to call the light operator (in another booth 25 feet away) --- no response. Tried to raise *anybody* on the intercom --- no response.

"Oh sh*t the intercom's dead" I muttered while frantically checking my headset, beltpack, cabling, and anything else imaginable.

As the time to take the cues loomed ever closer, my language became ever more colorful. I muttered various aspersions as to the family lineage of the intercom manufacturer, condemned the whole system to eternity in the netherworld, and made frequent references to Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. In short, it was the kind of monologue one delivers only when in a state of panic, alone in a booth with no other person within earshot.

Finally the light operator hollered from her booth "Go!". It turned out that only my *earphone* was dead, that the *microphone* still worked perfectly. Everyone on the intercom was privy to those vocabulary-expanding moments of panic. Oops.

On request, I (porkchop) posted a story on makeup:

Not outstandingly funny, but while working in a High School on Lend Me A Tennor, Max's Orthello makeup got on Maggie's stole. This was not supposed to happen, it was to go only on her face. The stole was expensive. The costume/makeup people put talcum/baby powder on the white stole and...Maggie had a reaction. She didn't make it back onstage for 10 minutes, the reaction was not serious (limited to much sneezeing, coughing, giving up lunch, etc...) and the show continued. Moral: See Murphy's law #1. (Al Fitch) had to have a drink one day:

Early on in my theatre career while running light board in a blackbox theatre out on the balcony (because that is where lights were run for this particular show) I made the mistake of thinking that I needed to quench my thirst during the show. With the dept chair right in front of me on the next level down and during a quiet momment in the show I reached for my BOTTLE of coke or mountain dew. The bottle slipped as I kicked it with my foot while bending down to get it. It rolled across the floor then dropped to the next level (where the dept chair was sitting) where it proceeded to roll toward the edge of the second balcony level. Just before it went over, the dept chair swooped out of his seat snatching the bottle just before it went over the side. I never saw him move so fast before and never gave him resason to again.

I will never forget that mistake, however, just this past show while discussing tech with the director and other designers my followspot op accidentally kicked his bag of cany corns over the side of a 3 level blackbox. The sound of rainning candy corns when unsure of the soursce is very alarming. I forgot to tell him my bottle story but did inform him that food and bevarage is not allowed out on the balcony areas. (Kai Harada), normaly a lerker, wrote these:

Stupid Kai-Theatre Stories:

1] fell asleep running sound for a small production of _kiss of the spider woman_ (play). Only missed one cue, and it wasn't a very important one.

2] one day (in college), took a nap at 2:pm, set alarm for 5:pm to eat dinner and make call at theatre at 6:pm for 8:pm show. Woke up at 5:pm. Said to myself, "I have *plenty* of time. I'm just gonna nap for a little bit longer..." Woke up again at 7:45pm to panicked assistant stage manager on answering machine... [luckily, they had already distributed wireless; unfortunately, they had fished the sound designer himself out of Friday Night Beers; he was none too happy...]

3] (not my fault): sets crew had been working one morning on some of the flying scenery. This flying scenery was very close to a speaker cluster, so they had to lower the speaker cluster in order to work on the scenery. Had a 2:pm show. Woke up at 12:30, piddled around, got panicky answering machine message around 1:pm, saying "Kai, I think there's something wrong with your speaker cluster. You'd better get here asap..." Ran over to the theatre about half-an-hour before house opened. In flying in my speaker cluster, they had somehow managed to arrange it so that the speaker cluster was no longer supported by aircraft cable, but by the 12/4 SO cable terminating in a Neutrik Speakon connector. When they had tried to fly the cluster back out, they had managed to snap the connector (proving that Speakon connectors can't withstand *everything*). House opened late while Kai re-soldered the connector (with trembling hands) and tried to refrain from chasing the fly captain around with a hot soldering iron...

Up with the trend of multi-accident posts, Andrea Gould ( wrote this:

1-I was working on a 2 sided 12 ft. ladder and (very stupidly) was climbing over to the other side. Apparently the ladder was not seated squarely on the floor (or something...I'm not quite sure. I don't remember much of this day) and began to tip to one side. Naturally, my reaction was to grab the pipe above my head that was, theoretically, attached to the ceiling. It snapped off (after later examination, it seems that the pipe-the last one beyond a tee-had been threded into the tee no more than maybe one or two turns and not otherwise secured.). needless to say, I fell, and got away with only a minor concussion and a cracked bone in my hand.

2-About 5 months later I was climbing up the late 70's vintage "cherry picker" we used for accessing our FOH pipes (quick backgroud on picker-the "bucket" in which you stand was held at the top of the ladder with two latches so that it could be swung down for storage) and had reached the top of the "ladder" portion of the picker and reached up to the top of the basket to pull myself in only to have the basket begin to come down on top of me because the two latches had worked themselves open (I kid you not. Apparently their age and general wear and tear meant that they no longer locked down securely). The instantaneous combination of the basket coming towards me and throwing me off balance, instinctive reaction to push the basket back so it would not hit me, and that I had just taken my other hand off the ladder to grab another part of the basket caused me to have rapid encounter with the concrete floor 20 ft below. Fortunately, I landed on my feet and broke, depending on which doctor or Raidiologist you talk to, between 1 and 4 metatarsals in my foot, and was otherwise okay. Unless you count that my crew then began calling me "Gimpy."

Pat Kight of the Albany (Ore.) Civic Theater ( may say that nobody was hurt, but I'd hate to be this guys ego...

This one wasn't an accident of the "ouch, you could get hurt" variety, but it still makes me grin when I remember it ...

In the course of building the set for _Little Shop of Horrors_, an old-fashioned, oversized flashlight that was being used as a prop disappeared. We combed the theater and couldn't find it. Eventually, the props master gave up and acquired a substitute, after much grumbling about people keeping their cotton-pickin' hands off the props.

During set strike, the flashlight turned up. It had been sealed inside a 3-D, cutaway section of "brick" wall that formed the facade of the florist's shop. The guy who found it, as the fates would have it, was the same guy who'd been cursing people who swipe props ... and he was the one who'd *built* the wall in the first place.

The incident is now used as one of those cautionary tales to remind our crews to strike all the rehearsal props *before* they start building. (Construction at our community theater typically spans two weekends, with rehearsals on the partially built set in between).

OK, it doesn't sound as funny as it was. But the look on the guy's face when he broke open that wall was priceless ...

Vic Phillipson <> of The Roadside Theater in Heidelberg, Germany has

Five years ago in a military club here in Germany I was teching a "Battle of the Bands" contest. The lead guitar amp blew a fuse for the fourth time that day (owing largely to the over-zealousness of the lead guitarists in the "bands"). Nobody had any more fuses. It was 1130 P.M. at the end of a very long day, when I asked, "Anybody got a piece of gum?"... Well you can guess the rest. As I leaned forward to insert the foil wrapped fuse into the fuse holder on the amp I realized that at that very instant that the amp was still plugged into the German (220 Volt, 32 amp) house current.

In retrospect I am glad it all happened the way it did. I was a shining example to a stage full of very impressed soldier/musicians of the effects of European voltage on the human body. I have not repeated my performance since.

Jon Connell, Director of Product Development for Lowel Light Mfg. Inc. had an experance that should have been captured on tape:

I remember an occasion - in the UK circa 1990 working on a rock and roll load in at a London venue....Well, there was this guy see... We were focussing the show. For some reason an inexperienced roady decided to drive a cherry picker through the backstage area. Being a conscientious man he did not want to run over all that high current spaghetti running from the generator to the rolling racks. He decided to quickly unplug it and move it out of the way....He unplugged the fully loaded 400 AMP Camlok Neutral that linked the generators to the distro. An impressive flash to say the least. Turned the connector into a 400 Amp arc welder. He lived. The main breakers popped and the Camlok went liquid. He turned a very strange shade of white. I think the guy is still working over there. Nobody will let him touch power - but that's OK, he does not want to. said:

I have been on stage on occasion and one story leaps to mind. I'm ready for an entrance I look at my feet and I see a bucket of sand. I ask the ASM (a willing freshman) why it's there and he responds with a detailed explanation that we ran out of blanks for the off stage gun shot so he is going to fire a LIVE .22 long into to the sand. He tried it in the shop and it will be fine. (Did I mention that we were in a Black Box theatre with audience about 10 feet away?) He had not told anyone (*especially the stage manager, she would go balistic*) about this because he was suppose to get the blanks and he forgot. To this point he had been a very dependable techie.

Believe it or not it took me about 30 seconds to figure out that it was *not a good thing*. Why? Because as an actor I was just curious as to if that bucket had to be in my way for my next exit. It was going to be moved so that was OK. ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ We ended up slapping two boards together for the effect and got blanks the next day.

The lessoned learned. (1) Always take extra time training your weapons handlers. (2) Never use anything but a starters pistol with no hole through the barrel unless you absolutely have to. (3) If you are in the show make sure your crew is top notch. Because, as an actor, you may check _your_ brain at the door.

Carissa Dollar <> had a few:

Here are a couple of my own accident stories:

Falling Tools:

The production of Tartuffe I stage managed a few years ago had a fairly simple set. The main scenic elements were three 11 foot tall sets of double doors. The frames had been built but the doors had not been hung and braced yet. My ASM was moving some rehearsal furniture onto the stage through one of the door frames. As she passed through one, I watched in horror as a socket wrench hurtled down from the 11 foot frame to smack her in the leg. She had quite a welt for about a month and I had a rather colorful conversation with the TD the next day about making sure the shop picked up after themselves.

Pulling the Wrong Rope:

How often have we seen this one happen? During a performance of "Into the Woods" I called the cue for the steel framed trees to fly OUT as the revolve unit turned DS. The fly operator brought the tree IN instead. I was chanting "OUT OUT OUT. The OTHER WAY." over the headset to the fly rail chief who was trying to communicate to the operator who did not have a headset. The tree hit the revolve with a THUD and nicked Cinderella's Prince's ear as he rolled around on the ground with the Baker's Wife. I've seen operators fly the pipe in to the floor before they get the message that they are going the WRONG WAY through their brains and reverse their direction. (Even the Main Curtain!)

Now in Feb of '97, Elan Ruskin <> continues rolling in stories:

During a high school production of Welcome To The Moon (which I believe was a collection of student-written plays), there was to be a scene in which an actor states the line, "and then night fell", at which point a starry-sky backdrop was to unroll and hit the stage with a resounding THUMP.
Two rehearsals before opening night:
Production carpenter gets the cue, pulls the rope, and with the aforementioned resounding THUMP, the backdrop unrolls. Tra la.
Last rehearsal before opening night:
Production carpenter gets the cue, pulls the rope, and with a resounding FWOP, the backdrop falls halfway. We consider it an omen.
Opening night: Everything is going perfectly until this scene.
Carpenter gets the cue...
pulls the rope...
and with a resounding THUD...
the third portal crashes to the stage.

Derek <> from Anoka High School in MN read the accident reports and was instantly reminded of the time they were hanging scenery for our production af Annie...

The tech crew and I were hanging set pieces made to look like life size two-story buildings for our production of "Annie" two years ago. We have no fly system at all, because of budget cuts, and so we just hoisted these 20' tall X 20' wide metal frames up to the cieling. We hit several flouresent lights, two 4' tube bulbs fell and exploded, dented several scoops, dropped numerous 2X4's and bolts, and dropped a screwgun from a 16-foot ladder twice. No one was hurt badly after that day, but we all had headaches. (Most from stress, not impacts on the head)

In July, Luke Taylor <>, told me of a class war:

In my first year of tech work at high school, there were three classes of techies. Baby techs, techs, and audie techs. The audie techs often talked about their prowess and acute knowledge of our theater.
One day, during a rehearsal of "I Hate Hamlet", we got a little carried away on the entrance of Hamlet's ghost. We had rigged a combo dry ice/rosco smoke machine, and were quite zealous in its use during the entrance. However, with all the smoke we bacame worried about the fire alarms, so we opened a few of the fire doors (the ones above the grid). The event came during the closing of said doors. One of the oh-so-wise audie techs decided that instead of pushing the hot metal door back, he would jump on it. So he got up on top of the door, jumped up... and the fire door, being spring loaded, sprung open, leaving said audie tech doing a nifty impression of someone about to fall 60 feet to their death. Luckily, another, somewhat smarter tech was there, and caught our misfortunate friend before he plunged to his death. I don't think he will ever go near another fire door in his life.

In December '97, Nathan Goldblatt <> sent along four new stories.

Four things happened over the course of my high school carreer at New Trier High School.

First: My soph year: one of our scene's for our student run production required a lava lamp. Our ATD lent her's to us, of course a big mistake. During one of the scene changes, the girl carrying it on let the cord out of her hand as she was carrying it. An actor, of course, stepped on the cord and not only did we have broken glass on stage, but, in case you didn't know, the contents of a lava lamp are oil and wax. Of course we had it preheated backstage. I think that was the longest blackout in recorded history because the actor waited until she was onstage to step on the cord.

Second: Also my soph year: For our production of "Guys and Dolls" we managed to buy a neon sign that said "The Hot Box" for a measly $500. We rigged it to a sheet of plywood. After the first dress, we brought it in to about 6" off the floor so that we could tweek it. When we were finished, two actors that were doing crew only for their requirement were operating the fly rail. As they brought it IN instead of OUT, it quickly hit the floor. This wouldn't have been so bad because they stopped, but we had not used locking clips and the cable fell off the plywood. I heard my TD yell, "Grab the sign!!Grab the sign!!Grab the sign!!" so I turned around and reached out just in time to have the plywood miss my fingers by no more than 2" and smash all but 3 letters of the entire sign. For those of you that don't know what happens to neon when it breaks, it doesn't just break, it completely explodes. We swept the stage to its farthest corners to get it all, and as for me, standing RIGHT next to it, I had to dump out my shoes. I was very lucky and no one was injured at all, except for the actor who said, "Nice job crew." I think she was reamed out by our TD and all of the directors of the show. We did get it replaced, OVERNIGHT.
Moral: Never ever under any circumstances let actors touch the fly rail.

Third: My junior year: I was now TD for that student run show I was telling you about before. We decided to use our mirror ball(about 2' diameter) for our dance number. My assistant screwed, not bolted like he was told to, but screwed the motor to the base. As fly lines are want to do, especially with orchestra ceilings up there, it got stuck. It had a span of movement of about 5', so I told everyone to clear the stage and I would try to jerk it free. The last time I jerked, I used the entire 5 feet and it came free, it being the mirror ball from its base and fell about 15' and made a dull thud as it hit the floor. For those of you that don't know, mirror balls that cost $500 to replace are really just a large hard foam ball with a bunch of broken glass on it.

Fourth: My senior year: The one where someone actually gets hurt: I am stage managing the student run show, after having TD it again. Some one says that the act curtain is going too slow. I have run flys at my school several times and have gotten it down to a science with my twin brother and can hurl the thing from rest to place in under 6 seconds, so we go to show them how to do it fast. The way to do it fast is have one person climb behind and one person stay in front. Yes there is enough space to walk behind my fly rail. There is a fire cabinet with a hose in it right next to the rail, so you climb onto the fire cabinet and jump off. Our act curtain weighs about 1200 lbs. so if you just hold on you won't get hurt. As the arbor comes hurtling towards earth, and me, the person in front grabs on at the last second and just flys upward and that prevents the arbor from smashing into the fly rail. He grabbed on a little too late, and me, not wanting the arbor smashing into the fly rail sending 11 lb chunks of steel everywhere, held onto the arbor up until the very last second when I did not let go of the arbor and smashed both of my index fingers. There is a little bit a space between the back of the rail and the back of the arbor which is why I did not smash all of my fingers. I did not feel a thing and did not think anything was wrong until I looked down and saw that my finger was not exactly pretty, but it wasn't bleeding, yet, so I just said calmly, "Uh.. that would be a bad thing." and I went downstairs where a wave of pain entered my hands and I decided that I wasn't going to look at it until long afterward. I made the cartoons come true. When they smash a digit it swells huge. My mom told me a week later when I looked at it and it was about twice the size of a normal finger and said that the swelling was way down. I said "What?!?!" Yeah it used to be twice as big. I only broke the right index finger, the left one was just kind of ugly and now, two months later, I can use it, but the nerves are still sensitive and it is bent like witches at just the last joint. It'll probably straighten out after a few thousand in physical therapy. To give you an idea of how bad it was, the brat kid who happens to exist where ever anybody does, was in tears looking at it a reporting it to everyone.
Moral: Don't put your fingers under 1200 lbs of steel.
Conclusion: When you are wishing someone luck, say: Break a leg, lava lamp, Hot Box sign, mirror ball, and a finger.

In January of '98, Luna <no address> sent another story of gravity and new guys too smart for a productions' own good.

You know those wonderful little side curtains that always manage to get twisted no matter how hard you try to keep them straight as actors rush blindly off stage? Well, during on of the rehersals for my high school's production of *Grease* one of the said curtains got twisted in such a way that it created a huge gap in which anyone in the audience could have seen us (the stagehands). Of course our newest techie (a complete spaz) decides "I can fix it! You just have to pull it THIS way!" I shouted to him not to, but, of course, he didn't listen, pulled the curtain, which crashed into a flouresent light bulb sending it spiraling down toward my head. I had only enough time to yell "s+++!" and cover my face with my arms before it hit me and bounced to the floor, shattering into a million pieces. Needless to say, the rehersal had to be put on hold until us techies could sweep up the glass before a wandering actor cut his little sensitive foot.

Steve Walsh <> has a runin with miscommunication and gravity:

The following happened on my one foray into Mechanist territory (I normally loiter with intent in the high, dark areas of a theatre)

Whilst bumping a show out in November 1997, we were reaching the end of the night, and there were only a few things left to load. The TD pointed us in the direction of the Cougar(like a tall-a-scope, only motorised) and asked us to fold it up. We find that there are only two pins holding the basket up, so I climb the three stairs and reach up to pull the pins. I hear a "I'm ready" from behind me, and pull one pin out. The other pin was already loose, and the entire basket pivoted, coming to rest on my head. The "ready" call was from LX in the catwalks re-rigging. 1"x1" Steel tubing weighs a bit. 5 Stitches and a blood infection later, I call it a night

Two things I learned that night are that (a) ER does not wash _all_ the blood off. I don't want to know what the cop thought when he breath tested me. Dressed in black and face covered in blood... And (b) It is not a good idea to call your fiancee from the ER department and say "Hi! I'm calling to let you know I'm out at (local hospital) getting 5 Stitches put in my head, so I'll be a little late home"

P.S. As of January 16th, 2 1/2 months after it happened, there is still a groove (and a permanent bald patch) in my head where the tubing hit.

James Jackson <> came up with a few:

Working with a local community dance company, we have many dads who build our "stage crew". We had devised a system called "Pop and Drop" since the High school stage we work in has no fly space and at the time a bad traveler. Before each show we would roll our snow drop on a 4" pvc pipe run two lines down the sides of the muslim cable tie it and pull it to the pipe. Anyway during the scene change from Battle to Snow aproximatly 2:30 sec we break down the house set and put up snow. Well one year a dad wasnt paying attention as the 4" pvc tube that the drop was rolled on came down and snaped his nose into a couple of pieces.

Acouple of years later during the same scene change one of the runner flats didnt make it out on time so a brave crew dad with his rear to the audiance place it on stage. A couple hours and beers later at the cast party we dubed him Snow Butt which evolved into Snow Balls.

As Pyrotechnitian for the company I put in a P.O. for a detonater to me built. It would be capable of firing up to five flash pots at the same time. well rehersal went great which scared me. I was plugging in the cord out of the box to the flashpot about five minutes before my cue when the flashpot blew in my face much to my surprise. It turns out that the relay fried and kept the circuit closed so we cut that relay out and used a different channel which again blew in our faces so we decided to go back to the old routine of plugging them into the wall and avoiding the arc.

Chris Babbie <>, Chief Engineer, Location Sound, Tucson, AZ:
I was sound opping a show that followed "Little Shop..." (which was held an extra week) that had only one week of tech, instead of the usual two. The sound op for LSOH was also a week behind in his scheduled re-mount of the show in our sister city, so he did no clean up and split town. At that point, I had twice as much work, and half as much time to do it in. Then the Sound Designer waltzed in with NOTHING done, and a box of noises on floppy and a harddisk recorder. I had to reconfigure the booth as a recording studio before rehearsals while he constructed the design, and back for the rehearsals every day. Now I had four times the work, and half the time. Pretty normal for theater, all of you are used to it I'm sure. What resulted was 16 hour days with no meals or breaks. I ended up putting in eighty-six hours that week.
Only an accident potential occurred in the theater, the SD NEEDED to have two forty pound speakers balanced on the unused bacony rail (finished plaster, not a steel tube or 'rail' per se), pointed down at the audience. Right next to the speakers was where the elderly, volunteer ushers stored their programs. Usually accessed in near dark. The only reason an accident was avoided is that I was willing to put my job on the line. Opening night the speakers were still just balanced there with only a cannon connector and speaker cable preventing death and mayhem. I told the SM that we could not have an audience in the house with this situation, and he replied we'll fix it tomorrow. I said that the new sound op may want to run a show and risk the audiences safety, but I would not. We took the speaks down, and ran the show, minus the "surround" effects.
Four days later, I was hit on my motorcycle, and ended up in the hospital. I had been riding all of my life, and contribute the accident in part to having worked under those conditions. So many people seem to be aware of the 'long hours, hard work leads to accidents' correllation, that I can't understand why this continues in the theater.


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