Investigation finds cause of accident
Officials from the New York State Dept. of Labor expect to meet today with the production team of Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to review safety plans following an actor injury that abruptly ended the show Monday night.
DOL spokesman Leo Rosales said the org was not ready to issue a decision regarding the cause of the incident, but legit thesp union Actors’ Equity deemed the accident to be the result of human error.
Producers canceled a single performance, today’s matinee, in the wake of the injury but were aiming to get the show back up in time for tonight’s curtain.
Prior to that, reps for the DOL intended to meet with those involved in “Spider-Man” this morning. “We’re going to be meeting with the production people so they can let us know their plan to ensure the safety of the performers going forward,” Rosales said.
Incident served as another very public reason observers could raise doubts about the safety hazards inherent in the tech-heavy megamusical. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Equity and the DOL brought the production under renewed scrutiny in the wake of Monday night’s accident, with investigators sent to the Foxwoods Theater on Tuesday to determine what happened and how it could be prevented.
“Actors’ Equity Assn. worked today with the Dept. of Labor, OSHA and the production to determine that the cause of the accident at last night’s performance of ‘Spider-Man’ was, in fact, human error,” said Equity rep Maria Somma in a statement. “Further protocols are now being implemented, including redundancies recommended by Equity, the DOL and OSHA, to address this situation as well as other elements of the production.”
It was not yet immediately apparent what those new precautions would be, nor whether it would be feasible for them to be enacted by tonight.
“An accident like this is obviously heartbreaking for our entire team and, of course, to me personally,” said director Julie Taymor in a statement Tuesday. “I am so thankful that Chris is going to be alright and is in great spirits. Nothing is more important than the safety of our Spider-Man family and we’ll continue to do everything in our power to protect the cast and crew.”
Eyewitnesses and a video of the accident suggested that a cable meant to support actor Chris Tierney either snapped or had been incorrectly secured. The actor fell at least several feet — and as many as 30, by some estimates — off a ramp during a sequence in which the comicbook hero, played by Tierney, was to rescue paramour Mary Jane. Tierney was hospitalized Monday night and said to be listed in serious condition. Two fellow cast members, Reeve Carney and Natalie Mendoza, posted support for the thesp via Twitter. “Chris Tierney, you are my hero,” Carney wrote.
Meanwhile, producers said the new safety precautions would be introduced immediately so the show could go on.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Actors Equity and the New York State Department of Labor have met with the ‘Spider-Man’ company today to discuss additional safety protocols,” said production rep Rick Miramontez on Tuesday. “It was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately,” and after the canceled afternoon perf, “all subsequent performances will proceed as scheduled.”
Missed matinee will be reskedded. A Tuesday evening performance was never planned.
Tierney, one of the thesps who fills the masked title role alongside Reeve Carney, is the fourth cast member to be hurt in the show. Two performers sustained injuries in the run-up to preview performances, and then during the first perf, Natalie Mendoza, who plays villainess Arachne, suffered a concussion backstage and has since missed shows as she recovers.
The ambitious $65 million musical, which aims to incorporate arena-style spectacle in a show housed in a more traditional Main Stem venue, features a number of aerial sequences that have not previously been attempted in a Broadway theater. All the high-flying stunts had been approved by the DOL prior to the start of previews Nov. 28.
Latest incident looks primed to stoke skepticism among some observers about the safety and night-to-night viability of “Spider-Man,” as well as to prompt renewed vows from watchdog orgs to ensure that proper precautions are taken.
“Safety is and has always been paramount for everyone on stage and backstage and for the audience in front of the curtain,” said James J. Claffey, prexy of the Local One chapter of stagehands union IATSE. “The union will insist that safety checks and redundancies are added to ensure the safety of everyone involved in ‘Spider-Man.'”
Tuner has had a rocky road to the stage that has included major financial and technical hurdles, but so far, at least, the travails — and the intense media coverage they have garnered — have not dampened audience enthusiasm. Last week the production logged box office of more than $1 million from just six preview performances.