Author Topic: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?  (Read 5067 times)

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SMscuba

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SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« on: Mar 30, 2015, 11:36 pm »
I'm stage managing a new musical. It's set during World War I and features two Scottish brothers. One goes to fight in the war and the other is a conscientious objector. The show features a bayonet training sequence as well as several battle scenes.

The Managing Artistic Director, who also wrote the musical, has acquired six antique World War I bayonets that he is set on using in the show. I haven't seen them yet, but they're apparently fully functional guns with actual blades attached. This is a very small theatre and no one is union. I don't have anyone higher in the organization to go to with my concerns, since the writer is also the MAD.

How do I convince the MAD/writer that real guns (and blades!) on stage is a very, very, very bad idea? And if I can't, what do I do?

Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth
« Last Edit: Mar 31, 2015, 07:44 pm by Maribeth »

MatthewShiner

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Re: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 31, 2015, 11:04 am »
There are ways to make the units safe.  Just because they once were real, does not make they can't be made stage worthy.
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loebtmc

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Re: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 31, 2015, 11:49 am »
As Mr Shiner states, it's always possible to make them safe for stage, but make sure you have a good prop master to adjust them to safe mode as well as a good fight master to choreo their use (and make sure there's a nightly fight call). And, just as with a gun, I'd do a series of safety checks before each show, first with my ASM/props, and then with the actors, before the show goes up.

Also, this'd be one of those "no one touches them" items - only props, other than when they are actually being used onstage.

Michelle R. Wood

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #3 on: Apr 06, 2015, 10:01 am »
Coupled with what was said before, a good resource to find someone who would know about making these weapons safer/adjustments would be a local university theatre program, if you have one nearby.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

SMMeade

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 06, 2015, 02:38 pm »
You'll also want to look into your local gun laws & make sure you have a good place to lock them up when not in use.

hbelden

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #5 on: Apr 07, 2015, 02:38 pm »
And if the theatre does not address your safety concerns, but MUST have REAL GUNS/BLADES for the AUTHENTICITY, you always have the option of breaking your contract.

I would not want to see my name attached to a show in which someone got injured by a weapon onstage.
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MatthewShiner

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #6 on: Apr 07, 2015, 03:33 pm »
A chair can cause an injury.

The act of theater itself is dangerous.

You can dull the blades and make the gun unfireable.  And then you have something that is relatively safer then the item you had before.
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KMC

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #7 on: Apr 07, 2015, 05:44 pm »
What exactly is the concern?  Is the concern with the rifle as a firearm, the bayonet as a sharp blade, or both? 

With the bayonet it will be similar to swordplay on stage.  Assuming there will be an experienced fight choreographer to stage the action, scheduled fight calls ahead of performances, and secure storage and proper chain of custody before/during/after performances, the risk should be mitigated to a level consistent with industry standards. 

With the firearm - these are WW1 rifles.  Is the concern that the specific actors handling the firearms will bring in rifle cartridges of the exact size and calibre needed to fire them, then load and fire the rifle with live rounds?

Most, though not all, WW1 rifles used ammunition of a calibre not used in modern rifles.  Some WW1 rifles did use ammunition that is common today (.30-06, for example), but I would argue that anyone who is familiar enough with firearms to figure that out also knows that firing a 100+ year old rifle without inspection from a qualified gunsmith is a BAD idea.  You risk the rifle quite literally blowing up in your face. 

Playing the firearms thing out to its logical conclusion, I'd argue you're far more likely (though still not at all likely) to have an actor simply bring a modern weapon into the workplace and use that.

As Matthew has said there is no way to eliminate risk 100%.  The job is to mitigate risk to an acceptable level.


Some thoughts on specifics:

- Insist on provisions for a qualified fight choreographer (if that person doesn't already exist).

- Schedule adequate staging time.  Schedule fight calls before each run and performance.

- Have secure storage for any weapons while they are not in use.  This would be a lockable area that only necessary people have keys to.  Each key should be numbered and inventoried, with documentation kept to who holds which key.  If it's a long run, you should schedule periodic audits of keyholders and records.

- Have a clear chain of custody any time the weapons are not in  storage.  They shouldn't be left on the props table, for example. This should be documented and enforced.  Similar to above, periodic audits for long runs should be conducted and documented.

- If the firearms will be fired using blanks, the blank cartridges should be inventoried.  Prior to the firearms being loaded, two people should verify the number of cartridges loaded, and that all cartridges have come from the secure storage area.  When the firearms are being loaded, a second person should be present and verify that only inspected blank cartridges have been used.

- If the actors in question have not used firearms before, it would be a good idea to have a familiarization with firearms in general.  Find an instructor and have the actors fire some rifles (not your WW1 props!) at a target range.  [Sane and rational] People who use firearms develop an immense respect for the power they have and the damage that can be done by careless use.

- With the bayonets, if they are sharp - have a day where they actually use the bayonets (think watermelon or pumpkin).  Again, when they see it cut through a pumpkin they will understand what it can do if they are careless.


Good luck - let us know how it goes.
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Maggie K

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #8 on: Apr 08, 2015, 04:11 pm »
If you are firing the weapons on stage you need to check what the local laws are.  Some cities can be very strict about the use of firearms, even blank firing ones.
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SMscuba

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #9 on: Apr 10, 2015, 08:57 pm »
Thanks for all the advice, guys. Apparently they're antiques from someone's personal collection, so we can't dull the blades or anything. I like the idea of having the actors use the bayonets on a pumpkin or something to really get across the point that everyone needs to be careful. I'll consult the fight choreographer about that.

I'm just worried about entrances and exits in the dark, and the fact that they're going to be on a raked stage. It seems like a recipe for disaster.

loebtmc

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Re: SAFETY: Real weapons on stage?
« Reply #10 on: Apr 10, 2015, 09:37 pm »
That puts a totally different spin on this. If you can't take action to make them safe, along with all the other safety procedures enumerated above, then your director needs to get over himself. A good prop shop will have replicas that are safer to use (w the same codicils as noted above) and those shd be used instead. As is, you are right, it is indeed a recipe for disaster.

 

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