Author Topic: SAFETY: Guns and promenade staging  (Read 1485 times)

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SAFETY: Guns and promenade staging
« on: Mar 12, 2012, 12:44 pm »
I'm working on a show that will be in an intimate setting with promenade style staging. At the end of the show a character will be killed and our director wants it to be dramatic, loud and bloody. We are currently debating the use of a blank gun.

The director who is also the artistic director wants a blank gun and views it as an infringement of his vision not using one. He's using the "we have to do risky theater or why bother" argument. He's nixed the idea of a sound effect instead of a prop gun when I brought it up in a production meeting and again when the production manager brought it up in an e-mail discussing gun policy. He doesn't think it will be dramatic enough and that the show will really suffer for it since it's the climax of the show. We're talking about having a blank gun fired backstage away from audience members, cast and crew.

I'm really concerned about having a prop blank gun fired in a show where there is not assigned seating and we might have an audience member mistakenly wander into an area that they shouldn't. Has anyone else dealt with stage firearms in a small setting where audience movement will be unpredictable? For that matter, has anyone else dealt with a safety concern being ignored by the director and artistic director? How did you deal with that?
« Last Edit: Mar 13, 2012, 03:10 pm by PSMKay »


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Re: SAFETY: Guns and promenade staging
« Reply #1 on: Mar 13, 2012, 06:19 pm »
This whole thing should most likely get passed up to a props rental place that can adequately provide you with something that will provide the effect safely.

In the past where I did a show in a small (under 99 seat) house here in NYC we had a gunfight as our climax to the show and had about 6 prop non-guns provided by a props rental place who provided us with the size blanks appropriate for the venue (which I believe ended up being 1/4 loads) and they didn't discharge any casing so they were safe for the actors as well any audience (our first row was maybe 5 feet away)

That all being said, I would have never felt safe doing the whole scene without the support of the professional props firearms and the company who supplied us with adequate training and safety measures.
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Re: SAFETY: Guns and promenade staging
« Reply #2 on: Mar 13, 2012, 07:43 pm »
Seconding calling a professional props place. They were a huge help when I did a show with gunfire.

(Side note: I don't think "we have to do risky theater or why bother" applied to potentially shooting an audience member!)
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco


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Re: SAFETY: Guns and promenade staging
« Reply #3 on: Mar 14, 2012, 05:01 pm »
If you have a fight choreographer knowledgeable about prop gun usage, they might be a good person to explain the risks or alternatives to the artistic director.  I’ve found them to be helpful resources, sometimes they come across as more credible than other team members.   Maybe they can help you and the actors develop a backup plan or two, so they have several options for whether to stand or where to point the gun if audience members seem to be in a bad place for it.

You mention the production manager is involved in the discussion; is there a general manager who could be involved as well?  It seems to me that protecting the audience may fall more onto the GM or business side’s plate.  If they feel comfortable about the risk level to patrons, and you’re looking out for the actors, all the bases are covered. 

I’ve done several shows with guns fired offstage with blanks, coordinated with non-functioning on-stage gun.  It really can work out nicely with practice.  Maybe you and other staff can practice coordinating that, and demonstrate it for the director so they get a sense of how it works.  There are so many things we do in theater that amount to the magic of lights, sound, and distraction, that it’s kind of selling the team short to say the gun needs to be “real” to have a big impact. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)


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