Author Topic: Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark  (Read 19706 times)

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NomieRae

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Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark
« on: Oct 29, 2010, 06:03 pm »
Hey All--

I've been told I'm such a worry wart when it comes to these things but these two posts regarding accidents over at SPIDERMAN have ruffled my feathers.
http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/theater/spider_man_safety_scare_Z4StFsGWzAGL5ByuimKGzL
http://www.playbill.com/news/article/144474-Spider-Man-Actor-Kevin-Aubin-Injured-at-Group-Sales-Event

And after hearing similar accounts from shows like XANADU and TARZAN it just constantly makes me wonder what safety measures are really in place, what research into long-term effects on the performers' bodies is being done, etc. I know that accidents can, and do happen, but at what point do you say "it's not worth the risk?"

In my career I've reported to AEA, then walked off two productions when I felt that some of the things they were doing were unsafe to the performers. Some people said it was a little too extreme, but I don't want to be a part of a company/project that values the bottom line over safety.

....maybe this is why I don't like working in commercial theater.

So I ask my fellow members here at SMNetwork - do you have stories of where you stood up for safety of your crew, yourself or your performers and got some resistance?

I'd also like to hear what people's thoughts are on the SPIDERMAN accidents. I really don't even want to see the show after reading the articles--sorry Miss Taymor.
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

BLee

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #1 on: Oct 29, 2010, 07:45 pm »
I was reading about those accidents today. Perfect timing since in one of my graduate classes we were discussing this very topic. All of the stage managers in the conversation agreed that we feel one of our top priorities is to make the theatre as safe as possible, even with the knowledge that our field is prone to taking a high level risk.

One of my colleagues has been dealing with a safety concern. She had multiple people on her production (non-equity) share their concern to her and she has vocally been against an unsafe practice that the director (who is also the artistic director) insists having in the show. As they were heading into tech the director told her she needed to get on board and stop bringing up the concern because it wasn't going to change. Sure, she could technically quit, but if she did she could be putting the performers more at risk because someone new might not be as tuned into the potential for injury. All she can do at this point is prepare for the worst and hope it never happens.

Adding to this topic: Where does safety rank on our priorities? Should it be #1 over any visual effects? Or is our job to simply see the danger and prepare for the possibility of injury (and prevent it when we can)?
XX. The only valid excuse for missing one's cue is death.
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kiwitechgirl

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #2 on: Oct 29, 2010, 08:26 pm »
One of my colleagues has been dealing with a safety concern. She had multiple people on her production (non-equity) share their concern to her and she has vocally been against an unsafe practice that the director (who is also the artistic director) insists having in the show. As they were heading into tech the director told her she needed to get on board and stop bringing up the concern because it wasn't going to change.

I think that in this situation I'd be going to the production manager or the producer.  I'm firmly of the belief that artistic integrity must come second to safety; I've had episodes (working in a university drama department) where I've refused to let students perform self-devised stunts because they simply had too much potential for injury.  I do think that sometimes health and safety goes mad, and that you can't prevent freak accidents, but most risks can be managed effectively.  It can be a fine line and a balancing act, but I think we as stage managers (in conjunction with producers/production managers/technical departments) are responsible for walking that line. 

I also think that when an accident does happen, figuring out why and how it happened can be enough to stop the particular piece of action being cut; I had an incident yesterday in rehearsals (for Cabaret); the Emcee was supposed to be catching the legs of one of the Kit Kat girls as she went into a handstand.  They misjudged it, and it resulted in the Emcee being kicked in the head.  Serious? Possibly.  But we figured out why and how it occurred and how to stop it re-occurring, and both performers are happy to continue with it.  Effective risk assessment and management can solve most issues, and for those that it can't, safety has to come first.

On_Headset

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #3 on: Oct 29, 2010, 08:35 pm »
Quote
I have no idea if the show is any good, but the special effects are unbelievable.
I'll admit it, I winced.

One of the early chairmen of the BBC had a philosophy about his job. It was television's responsibility to do what only it could do well: rather than trying to imitate film, radio, and so on, television should focus on things like live coverage of news and sporting events, broadcasting programs which can only really be watched in the home (cooking programs, crafting programs, etc.), and so on. The movies will out-do television in the things that movies do best; the radio will out-do television in the things it does best; newspapers will out-do television in the things it does best; and so on. Television could only succeed as a medium if it carved out its own niche and focused on its own strengths, rather than trying to adopt those of others.

To some extent, theatre's in the same boat. No matter how hard we try, there's simply no way for live theatre to compete with movies in terms of highest-tier special effects: films have dozens of takes and months of editing and enhancement and the ability to have the entire effect supervised, coordinated, planned and executed by teams of dozens if not hundreds of specialists, while we have... running crew, who--bless 'em--can't make the wires disappear, can't completely hide the trapdoors, can't keep the audience from seeing the nets, and can't replace the lead actor with a trained stunt double right before the Big Huge Stunt Effect Bit. We can't keep up with film in this area, and trying to do so becomes very dangerous very quickly.

That doesn't mean theatre has to give up on thrilling effects and restrict itself to Hamlet and Death of a Salesman, but I'm very wary of this production in particular if the emphasis is on cinematic-quality special effects as an attraction unto themselves, especially if such incredible risks are being taken.

Mac Calder

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #4 on: Oct 29, 2010, 09:25 pm »
Adding to this topic: Where does safety rank on our priorities? Should it be #1 over any visual effects? Or is our job to simply see the danger and prepare for the possibility of injury (and prevent it when we can)?

Safety is always top priority. I would not walk off of an unsafe production if I saw something was unsafe and no-one in power would agree to change it.

Down here, as SM chances are I would be the Occupational Health & Safety rep, so I would issue a PIN notice (Provisional Improvement Notice), which is lodged with WorkSafe - it is a notice to the employer that you have noticed a serious OH&S risk, and even though you have communicated your concerns, no action has been taken. The notice has a resolution date, and the employer is required to respond to this notice within that time and allay your fears, otherwise an external inspector is brought in and will generally be a lot worse than changing a few little bits of an act, as they will tear through your OH&S policies and venue safety like a hurricane (they generally don't like being called out for stupid things like idiotic directors).

I would be surprised if there was not some form of written notice you could give your producer regarding safety that would somewhat force their hand.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #5 on: Oct 30, 2010, 01:13 am »
1) We should never believe a press release for all the facts.

2) I think it's naive to assume the commercial theater is less concerned with safety.   I would argue that more often, commercial theatre is putting more money into safety given the fact is has more money to do so, has a longer run to be concerned with, and has more to loose in canceling a performance then, say, a regional theater.  Look at the time and effort that a company like Cirque puts into their physical therapy department.

3) Accidents happen.  Actors walk into the pit, trip crossing the stage, run and do stupid things backstage.  We can plan and plan, but we can't control everything. 

4) Theatre is by it's very nature dangerous.  And what is safe for one performer is not safe for every performer.  My grandmother can't do stairs, it doesn't mean every show can't have stairs.

5) I do think it's our job to make sure the show can be executed X times a week with the resources given, and you need to make sure the performers are comfortable with it.  If an actor tells you they feel comfortable with it, and you still don't . . . you maybe overly cautious. 

6) If you still have concerns that are not being addressed, we are middle management, express those concerns.  Start a paper trail.  Implement safety checks you feel comfortable with.  Bring in the union.  Bring in Occupational safety.  Bring in the General Manager.  Bring in another stage manager.  Bring in the producer.  Bring in the fire department.  Bring in the Police.  Bring in a physical / sports medicine consultant. 

7) But here's the thing, if it comes down to you having to walk away from a show, I might argue that perhaps you should just keep on walking form the career.  This is a basic SM duty, to deal with these sort of issues, and if you can't deal with them - short of the creative team being sinister villains, perhaps you don't have the tools in your arsenal to be a successful manager and deal with these serious issues.   Or maybe, you were dealing with issues that perhaps were above your experience level.  I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but what does walking away a do?  Are you just trying to protect yourself?  Are you just throwing a fit because they won't do it you way, so you aren't going to work with them?  I just think we have a lot of tools in our little SM Kit of management skills I don't think it should come to walking. And all that is going to do is pass the problem onto someone else. 

What happened on Spiderman was a terrible accident, and I feel sorry for everyone involved.  But again, the actor was not forced to do this, and I am pretty sure understood the risks associated with the flying.  I am sure he had training.  Given the high profile nature of this show . . . I am sure the unions have been watching this with a careful eye.  If he ever felt unsafe, he could have contacted his agent or his union, or just walked away. 

The question about risk ultimately has to come down to the performer each and every time.  He needs to give me a clear each and every night.



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NomieRae

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #6 on: Oct 30, 2010, 01:47 am »
Thanks everyone for the replies--

Quote
7) But here's the thing, if it comes down to you having to walk away from a show, I might argue that perhaps you should just keep on walking form the career.  This is a basic SM duty, to deal with these sort of issues, and if you can't deal with them - short of the creative team being sinister villains, perhaps you don't have the tools in your arsenal to be a successful manager and deal with these serious issues.   Or maybe, you were dealing with issues that perhaps were above your experience level.  I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but what does walking away a do?  Are you just trying to protect yourself?  Are you just throwing a fit because they won't do it you way, so you aren't going to work with them?  I just think we have a lot of tools in our little SM Kit of management skills I don't think it should come to walking. And all that is going to do is pass the problem onto someone else. 

For full disclosure--the times I left a show for safety concerns they also directly affected me as the ASM running the deck tracks. Went up the gamut of SM, GM, CM, AEA, and they were still not willing to address my concerns for the safety of the actors and myself... so rather than do something I was ultimately uncomfortable being able to execute safely every performance I decided to leave. For the money and time involved it wasn't worth the anxiety and possible injury to myself or others.

I don't feel that it makes me a ineffective stage manager because I can recognize my physical/emotional limitations. To each their own-While some SMs may salivate over it, I now know working on a Cirque show would probably give me ulcers.


--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

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MatthewShiner

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #7 on: Oct 30, 2010, 07:00 am »

For full disclosure--the times I left a show for safety concerns they also directly affected me as the ASM running the deck tracks. Went up the gamut of SM, GM, CM, AEA, and they were still not willing to address my concerns for the safety of the actors and myself... so rather than do something I was ultimately uncomfortable being able to execute safely every performance I decided to leave. For the money and time involved it wasn't worth the anxiety and possible injury to myself or others.


I find this most off-putting that a member of your own stage management team didn't your safety into consideration. 

It's all good to know our limits of our selves and bodies and what we are willing to do.


Post Merge: Oct 30, 2010, 11:20 am
another interesting article on the event


http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/another-actor-speaks-of-spider-man-injuries/
« Last Edit: Oct 30, 2010, 11:20 am by MatthewShiner »
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NomieRae

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #8 on: Oct 30, 2010, 02:53 pm »
Quote
I find this most off-putting that a member of your own stage management team didn't your safety into consideration.

I found it quite off-putting as well...lesson learned not to work with certain people.

Quote
another interesting article on the event


http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/another-actor-speaks-of-spider-man-injuries/

I think this might be the best article thus far since it paints the picture of how dangerous ANY Broadway show can be, and all the accidents that we don't hear about. Will be an interesting thread to keep an eye on as the show opens...
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

MatthewShiner

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #9 on: Oct 30, 2010, 04:04 pm »
I would change that to read . . .

I think this might be the best article thus far since it paints the picture of how dangerous ANY (Broadway) show can be, and all the accidents that we don't hear about. Will be an interesting thread to keep an eye on as the show opens...


I remember being being told by a insurance rep that theatre/entertainment was number three after mining and professional sports as far as workman comps claims.  What we do is dangerous stuff friends.
« Last Edit: Oct 30, 2010, 04:06 pm by MatthewShiner »
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RuthNY

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Re: Performers & Safety - would you walk off a show?
« Reply #10 on: Nov 03, 2010, 08:25 am »
From the New York Times, yesterday:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/02/inspectors-to-review-flying-safety-for-spider-man-musical/

ArtsBeat - New York Times Blog
November 2, 2010, 5:08 pm
Inspectors To Review Flying Safety for ‘Spider-Man’ Musical
By PATRICK HEALY



Inspectors from the New York State Department of Labor will visit Broadway’s Foxwoods Theater on Wednesday to examine the flying and safety devices and watch some of the aerial stunts for the upcoming musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” which is expected to feature acrobatic flying that is unprecedented for Broadway.

The inspection has been in the offing for months, but it also comes two weeks after a flying technique in the show went awry, resulting in two broken wrists for actor Kevin Aubin. During the stunt, Mr. Aubin was launched from the back of the stage like a slingshot, landing again with serious force at the lip of the stage.

Under state law, shows like “Spider-Man” are not legally allowed to hold public performances until state inspectors review and approve special effects such as flying, said Leo Rosales, a department spokesman, on Tuesday. The inspectors usually issue findings a few days after their visit; they can seek or demand changes to promote safety, which producers usually accept rather than risk a delay in performances, Mr. Rosales said.

“The flying in this musical is unprecedented for Broadway, and we’re going to urge the producers to make sure everything is as safe as possible,” he said.

Asked if Mr. Aubin’s accident would influence the inspectors’ work, Mr. Rosales said the department was conducting a separate investigation of the sling-shot technique, which also caused foot injuries for a second actor this fall. That investigation is still underway.

Actors’ Equity is also looking into Mr. Aubin’s accident, which is standard after performance-related injuries, according to a spokeswoman for the union. “When a show is preparing to debut a lot of technology, especially flying over stage and audiences, we keep a close eye,” said the spokeswoman, Maria Somma.

Safety is not a new issue for the $60-million production, far and away the most expensive in Broadway history. Ms. Somma said that Actors’ Equity officials were in the theater this fall and watched as two different flying sequences were being rehearsed in the air at the same time, close to one another. The officials notified the production team that rehearsing the two sequences in such proximity was “unsafe,” Ms. Somma said, and the creative team immediately made changes.

“We have a system in place to watch over safety, whether it’s reviews during rehearsals or our union members working as stage managers on the show, or drive-by spot checks after a show opens,” Ms. Somma said.

A “Spider-Man” spokesman said on Tuesday that the producers had no comment on the upcoming inspections and the fact-finding about the sling-shot flying effect.

So much technical rehearsal is still to be done on “Spider-Man” that some veteran Broadway producers have begun to privately predict that preview performances, set to start on Nov. 14, will be delayed. Directed by Julie Taymor, a Tony Award winner for “The Lion King,” and with music by U2’s Bono and the Edge, “Spider-Man” seems likely to become the most technically complex show ever mounted on Broadway, given the amount of flying, special effects, moving scenery, and sound and lighting design inside the Foxwoods Theater, one of Broadway’s largest houses.

The “Spider-Man” spokesman, Rick Miramontez, said that preview performances were still scheduled to begin Nov. 14.
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missliz

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Spiderman's Stage Managers
« Reply #11 on: Dec 18, 2010, 01:16 pm »
Spiderman: Turn off the Dark has 7 SMs (2 PSMs, 5 ASMs)...more than any other show in Broadway history.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118029227

Nice article and interview with the head SM.

"What I'm struck by in this process," says Page, "(is that) you know this is part stage management, part air traffic controller. That kind of appetite for the challenge has been so inspiring to me."
« Last Edit: Dec 18, 2010, 01:19 pm by missliz »
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

dallas10086

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Re: Spiderman's Stage Managers
« Reply #12 on: Dec 18, 2010, 01:50 pm »
Thank you for posting, it was informative to finally see the production from stage management's perspective.

The best part:
The duo's track record proved a boon to the show and a confidence builder to actors not used to such technical productions. Patrick Page, who plays the Green Goblin, remembers that when he signed up to do the show, he stopped by the theater to see what was going on. The first person he saw was Purvis, with whom he'd worked on "The Lion King."

"I said, 'OK, now I know I'm supposed to do this. Now I'm comfortable,'?" he recalls. "I have two stage managers I would trust with my life calling the cues."


That is what I want every one of my actors to feel when they see me; that's the reputation I want to follow me.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Spiderman's Stage Managers
« Reply #13 on: Dec 18, 2010, 05:55 pm »
It's interesting that Patrick is the one quoted, as he is one the most automation friendly actors I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  Where I tend to be rather conservative and safe in call difficult and possibly dangerous automation cues, he was always pushing it to be tighter, as he felt comfortable.  I can't imagine a better person to be among that hectic world of uber-automation.
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NomieRae

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Re: Spiderman's Stage Managers
« Reply #14 on: Dec 19, 2010, 12:18 am »
Maybe it's the holiday season, but this article gave me the warm and fuzzies. Sounds like the show is in some great (stage management) hands. With all that is being said about the show I am still pretty excited that it is employing so many people in our industry, including these 7 stage managers.

Now the next question...will they ever be allowed to have people shadow them?? I'm so curious....
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

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