BREAK A LEG SAFELY
by Arthur Aldrich, TD, COLMAN-GROMACK PERFORMING ARTC CENTER, SPARKILL, NY; AACT SPOTLIGHT, FEBRUARY 2002
Break a leg! How many times have you said or heard this universal good luck wish in the theatre?
Everytime I hear it, I am reminded that for audiences, the theatre is a place of entertainment and magic. For actors, stage crew and technical
people, the theatre is really a work site. And whether paid of volunteer, theatre people in that work place are subject to a wide range of
Think about it. Above the stage hang lights, curtains, scenery and wires. People working on stage or building scenery routinely use ladders,
power and hand tools, and electrical
equipment - the same kind of equipment that contractors and construction workers use. Just because they're participating for pleasure
doesn't diminish the hazard. In fact, people
having fun tend to overlook or minimize workplace dangers, something which professionals in those trades cannot afford to do.
An accident quickly takes the fun out of theatre. Even worse, an accident can lead to serious, even fatal injury. No theatre group wants or
can afford this problem and the litigation, bad publicity or adverse community reaction that may result.
So, from start to finish, safety must be a major priority.
Normally the technical director is responsible for setting and maintaining safety standards. Some of this responsibility is delegated to the
stage managers, chief carpenter, and master
electrician. In community theatre, many of these jobs are performed by the same person. Because no one is directly responsible for safety,
everyone becomes responsible.
Let's start with the major hazard on stage -- the ladder. An a-frame ladder is the most common tool found in the theatre and one used most
frequently. And it is a took, whose use requires as much cautio9n and awareness as a power saw. Most stages provide at least 15 feet of
headroom from floor to grid' I have worked on many stages where that height is twenty or even thirty feet.