Flames lit up the stage at the evening show of Sweeney Todd on November 11. The last of four performances, the show could have ended early because of the fire, but did not.
A mid-sized rag that had earlier been used as a prop had landed on a light in an unnoticeable way so that it remained there until small flames broke out. Members of the production and the audience noticed the flames, and everyone quickly and orderly left the premises.
Sophie Hoffmann ’20 sat close to the stage at this performance and witnessed the entire event.
“I started to see tiny yellow flames. At first I thought they were lights that were a part of the set, but they weren’t. After people saw it, they started standing up, and yelling ‘there’s a fire, get off stage’. I personally started to panic a little bit, but it ended up being fine,” Hoffmann said.
From the performer’s perspective, ensemble member Anna Tellalian ’20 noticed the fire from backstage.
“I smelled burning after the first song of act two and told an actor to tell the stage manager. I went back to the chorus room and saw Mr. McManimon run quickly into the auditorium, while a cast member ran out of the auditorium yelling fire. Everyone in the room dropped everything and ran outside,” Tellalian said.
Once outside, nobody knew whether the show would continue, so some people waited outside, went to sit in their cars, or left.
“It was scary because we didn’t know how big the fire was or where it was. During the fire, everyone in the production was really sad because we didn’t know if we were going to be able to continue the show,” Tellalian said.
After the fire department declared that it was safe to go back in, the production continued.
“The students, parents, and staff involved in the show did an incredible job that night. They were able to stay composed and in about a half-hour we were able to start the show again and finish the act. The audience gave us a standing ovation,” Mr. Stephen Wrobleski, director of the production, said.
Even though there was no damage, and the show was able to continue, the drama department plans to prevent incidents like this by using LED lights for ground lighting effects.
“I am proud of the way our students handled the situation,” Wrobleski said. “They had tremendous poise and maturity given the situation.”