Twin Cities Actor Blows the Whistle on Unsafe Theater Production

EdSavoie

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Something seems off here, we clearly do not have the full story...

There are risks of course, but this is worded rather vaguely, and there are numerous measures my (amateur, not certified mind you) mind can think of that would render the pool rather quite safe.
 

derekleffew

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.. and there are numerous measures my (amateur, not certified mind you) mind can think of that would render the pool rather quite safe.
Hmmm, here in Las Vegas, "O" at Bellagio and "Le Reve" at Wynn seem "quite safe."

1. The article doesn't say exactly who or what actually caused the cancellation. Intimates that the lead actor just refused to perform?
2. What exactly is a thirty foot long electrical circuit?
 
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RonHebbard

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Hmmm, here in Las Vegas, "O" at Bellagio and "Le Reve" at Wynn seem "quite safe."

1. The article doesn't say exactly who or what actually caused the cancellation. Intimates that the lead actor just refused to perform?
2. What exactly is a thirty foot long electrical circuit?
It COULD be a circuit there and back on a 15' long cable? ? ?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

porkchop

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Many questions, obviously there's a lot of politics going on that is not reported in the (honestly pretty poorly written) article. No one likes to see shows shut down in this way and I personally find it unlikely that willing parties couldn't come up with a reasonable solution. I'm also having trouble imagining what a "30-foot long exposed electric circuit" could be.
 

theatricalmatt

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The riskiest I could come up with is a thirty-foot long section of open-faced striplights, and even that would be possible to mitigate.
 

MNicolai

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Footlights strung together with zip cord would be pretty wild but I would be surprised to see something that egregious.

I did Metamorphoses several years back and built a pool with porthole windows in from the sides. Used some Selador fire and ice fixtures to do some beautiful coloring of the pool throughout the show. Brought our AHJ in before we built the show and told him what I wanted to do. He was thought the whole thing was a bit eccentric but from a life safety perspective he just wanted to see portable GFCI's on any circuits that were cabled down to the pool area and in areas where the soaked cast members would be running around.

Some details from one of the other actors via Facebook:

Appreciate everyone's concern and support. The AEA cast members chose to "close the show" (i.e. walk...?) and did not give the production team the opportunity to change the design (eliminate the water feature) due to earlier instances of breach of trust, which were several and had been dealt with or could have been resolved. They did not notify all of the cast or SM beforehand--most were at yesterday's meeting to close, but not all (me).

Good SM: I believe she's an AEA candidate (if that's a thing w/ SMs). New Epic sent out appropriate notifications to the cast yesterday regarding closure and payment intent. My view: there had been enough earlier frustration that things jumped from step 1 to step 5 regarding the water feature. Too bad: good script, good cast, and other good tech elements.
 

NJJerrySmith

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https://minnesotaplaylist.com/magazine/article/2017/a-breach-of-trust

Some more information about the technical elements that were at play here, and a lot more about the culture of the production/company. Just to list off a few of the section headings: "There were no plans written out", "a breach of trust", "An entirely unprofessional way".

It's a long, well worth it, read. Below are some direct quotes about the rain effect and pool which are slightly conflicting (in my opinion). Text in squiggly brackets is mine for clarification/added information.

Cast members described the pool as being built from plywood and a tarp, held down with drywall screws. The {anonymous} technician I spoke to clarified that the “pool” was actually a long platform covered with plastic sheeting, onto which a rain effect using real water was intended to fall.

The technician said the rain system was “a hose suspended in the air (grid height, same as the lights) with small holes poked into it.” They described the rigging to me: “It was run very poorly - there were random loops that would restrict the water flow, it wasn't remotely straight in almost any direction, AND it was 'attached' to the grid by using lighting c-clamps. Said c-clamps were only finger-tight - any theater electrician can tell you that's not safe.”

By this technician’s assessment, {the rain effect} falling onto this platform would have spilled over to the stage floor, probably shorting out the series of ground-mounted, unprotected fluorescent tubes that were placed immediately downstage and possibly causing significant water damage to the stage. In the technician’s opinion, “The situation would be akin to putting a household floor lamp near a backyard kiddie pool, plugging it in, and telling the kids to have fun."
Also regarding the pool:

Craig Johnson {actor} said that Stodola had shown the cast a set rendering featuring the pool. Kathryn Fumie said that she had seen a floor plan of the set, but was surprised at how big the pool was when she saw it under construction. Everyone I talked to connected with the show confirmed that it was not completed before the cast walkout two days before opening. According to Craig Johnson:
"It was the typical tech: some things were ready, other things, like the pool, were not. To my knowledge, there wasn't a tech director, but the crew was laying plastic and screwing it to the platform. I noticed lighting instruments and electrical cables beneath the downstage edge of the pool. It struck me as concerning, but I had no idea what the finished piece would be or how it would be used."
 

MNicolai

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Reminds me of the "Fiasco!" episode of This American Life -- my favorite episode of This American Life.

Ira Glass: This is a story not just of a mediocre play or a terrible play. When it comes right down to it, it's not even a story about a play. This is a story about a fiasco and about what makes a fiasco. And one ingredient of many fiascos is that great, massive, heart-wrenching chaos and failure are more likely to occur when great ambition has come into play, when plans are big, expectations great, hopes at their highest.

Transcript!
 

Skervald

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Pardon this post if it's too far off topic or if this video has already been posted elsewhere. This is a brief behind the scenes "rain making" video done by another theater in town. Oddly this production opened about a month before the one in question. Interesting contrast in the way things were done. (and hopefully, goes a little way to repairing the reputation of the Minneapolis theater community!)

 

BillConnerFASTC

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Feels like there wasn't much attempt to resolve the issues in a collaborative way. Of course compromise and getting along seem to generally have fallen out of favor in our society.
 
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Van

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Jay Ashworth

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Feels like there wasn't much attempt to resolve the issues in a collaborative way. Of course compromise and getting along seem to generally have fallen out of favor in our society.
Based on my reading of the piece, Bill, the members of the company continued to volunteer to be taken advantage of until it became clear that was all it was ever going to be.

Compromise assumes neither side is a purposeful bad actor.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Based on my reading of the piece, Bill, the members of the company continued to volunteer to be taken advantage of until it became clear that was all it was ever going to be.

Compromise assumes neither side is a purposeful bad actor.
I simply don't accept the articles to be an objective and impartial representation of what happened. Just relying on an actor as an electrical expert makes me skeptical.
 

TimMc

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I simply don't accept the articles to be an objective and impartial representation of what happened. Just relying on an actor as an electrical expert makes me skeptical.
If you read all the Playlist article and the supporting documents I think a pretty clear picture emerges: The director, with no oversight from the theater company board, put them in a precarious legal and ethical situation and put actors at risk.

36 hours before opening is not the time to address a restored script (initially modified by the director without permission from the playwright and in violation of the license), large rolling set pieces and props moved by actors who have already expressed safety concerns, and the infamous "pool" that was a poorly conceived water collection device built above live electrical.

The director shot himself in the foot (or both feet) by being an egotist and without having the usual creative and professional checks and balances to keep the production on time, on budget and in general being run by sentient adults. He micromanaged what technical crew was present (almost exclusively student interns) and never delivered the physical materials (plans, elevations, etc) that would have allowed those interns to get productive work done.

Had it not been for the AEA members in the cast this feminine hygiene bag/director would have likely injured or killed cast or crew members and the article we'd be discussing would have a very different tone.

Tim Mc
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Event Safety Alliance
 

BillConnerFASTC

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If you read all the Playlist article and the supporting documents I think a pretty clear picture emerges: The director, with no oversight from the theater company board, put them in a precarious legal and ethical situation and put actors at risk.

36 hours before opening is not the time to address a restored script (initially modified by the director without permission from the playwright and in violation of the license), large rolling set pieces and props moved by actors who have already expressed safety concerns, and the infamous "pool" that was a poorly conceived water collection device built above live electrical.

The director shot himself in the foot (or both feet) by being an egotist and without having the usual creative and professional checks and balances to keep the production on time, on budget and in general being run by sentient adults. He micromanaged what technical crew was present (almost exclusively student interns) and never delivered the physical materials (plans, elevations, etc) that would have allowed those interns to get productive work done.

Had it not been for the AEA members in the cast this feminine hygiene bag/director would have likely injured or killed cast or crew members and the article we'd be discussing would have a very different tone.

Tim Mc
IATSE Local 190
Event Safety Alliance
Sorry, playlist article has not been available to me. All I've gotten is:

upload_2017-6-2_8-45-27.png
 

TimMc

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It works for me, Bill. Must be a timing thing. Derek Miller has quite a disclosure at the top of his article and he expresses great reluctance to throw anyone under a bus and in the end lets the reader make his/her own decisions. That he included transcripts of interviews and emails, and did not use any info that the interviewee would not permit released in transcript form or that would identify a person who asked for anonymity reflects well on Miller's ethics.

Perhaps it's because I've worked for jerks like this director, where everything is 'my way or the highway' and while such folks can have astounding artistic vision they can have zero grounding in reality. These are the folks that kill and injure others. Nobody.... nobody.... should be hurt or killed in providing entertainment. I celebrate the closing of this production although I'm more sanguine about the apparent loss of the company.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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I'll try at some other time of day but it's pretty consistent error message for me. I based my previous comments on the Star Tribune article.

I agree, there are directors (and actors, technicians, designers, administrators, consultants, (and architects in my world) etc.) that are jerks. It seemed based on Star Tribune article to happen so abruptly without any time allowed for resolution, as if it was all over in minutes. Of course, could have been the final straw.
 
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