USITT Helps 13 Schools with Stage Safety

USITT Helps 13 Schools with Stage Safety

USITT has approved the largest number of schools ever for free stage rigging inspections and safety training in the latest round of its Rigging Safety Initiative.

USITT received applications from 23 schools in fall 2013 and approved 13 for funding - the most since the school stage safety program began in 2011, said USITT Executive Director David Grindle.

USITT's Rigging Safety Initiative has assisted 65 schools in 22 states since it was founded with a $25,000 grant from JR Clancy rigging of Syracuse, New York. The program accepts applications twice a year, in spring and fall, and has approved at least 10 each round.

The new schools approved for stage rigging inspections and training are:

- Sparta High School in Sparta, New Jersey,

- Northwest Community High School in Indianapolis, Indiana,

- Aspen School District in Aspen, Colorado,

- West Bend High School in West Bend, Wisconsin,

- Veterans Middle School in Marblehead, Massachusetts,

- Two schools in New York State, Clarence High School in Clarence, and Nichols School in Buffalo,

- Two schools in Ohio, Lakewood High School in Hebron and Padua Franciscan School in Parma, and

- Four schools in Michigan: Cityside Middle School and Zeeland East High School, both in Zeeland; Northview High School in Grand Rapids, and Godwin Heights High School in Wyoming, Michigan.

Besides JR Clancy, three other companies - ETC in Middleton, Wisconsin; Shepard Exposition Services of Atlanta, Georgia, and H&H Specialties in South El Monte, California - and many individuals have contributed to support the program.

Two of the schools that applied this fall reported rigging accidents that stepped up the need for safety inspections, although fortunately no one was injured.

Jonathan Geller, Theatre Manager for the Aspen School District in Aspen, Colorado, sent 10 photos of problems with its 58-line counterweight system, including one he captioned "Scary Note on Lineset 58" - showing a note on the controls that says, "Move VERY Slowly & Bounce Carefully!"

Grindle said preventing safety problems is what USITT's Rigging Safety Initiative is all about. Approved schools get a free inspection of their stage rigging systems by a certified inspector and a four-hour safety-training seminar for up to eight people.

Many schools that apply can't answer the question of when their stage rigging was last inspected, Grindle said. USITT wants to help schools instill best safety practices at the secondary school level.

Geller said most people think of Aspen, Colorado, as well off, but the school district theatre hasn't benefitted from wealthy skiers vacationing at mountain resorts. He said the high school theatre is used year-round by several theatre and dance groups, but until the recent accident - when a heavy batten crashed to the stage and the arbor bent - the district had little support for upkeep and maintenance.

"Having this program pay for our inspection and safety training will free up money to allow us to actually make repairs," Geller said. "This allows us to bring in experts to show us the scope of the problems and the training to be able to offer a safer, more reliable system."

Grindle said schools that have applied but were not approved yet will not need to re- apply to receive aid in the future. "Those approved are based on perceived need and how much funding we can allot," he said. "The rest we keep in the mix. We hope to be able to take care of them down the road."

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