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Safety Curtians?

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ILoveMyDictionary
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Safety Curtians?#1
Posted: 6/19/07 at 1:40pm
What is the purpose of them? We don't have them on Broadway, and when I was in London this winter I noticed that a safety curtain was lowered during intermission in every show I saw. I also saw that in the program there was a little blurb that said the safety curtain must be lowered before each audience.
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Weez
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re: Safety Curtians?#2
Posted: 6/19/07 at 1:51pm
The purpose is, one presumes, so that if a fire (or something else?) breaks out either onstage or in the auditorium, the safety curtain can be lowered and the damage can be contained to just the one side of the curtain (and in a theatre, it's FAR more likely that the stage will catch fire). The reason they lower them in the presence of every audience is just so everyone knows it's working fine. ^_^

Unless I'm completely wrong. O_O But I'm pretty certain I'm right.
vmlinnie
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re: Safety Curtians?#2
Posted: 6/19/07 at 3:04pm
Yes, you are.

West End theatres are generally older than those on Broadway. When they were built, they wouldn't have been expected to last as long as they have. Plus, there was far more chance of fire back then.

They were usually fitted with a Safety curtain (which is in fact metal inside, not fabric), and a drencher. A drencher is a tank that sits above the proscenium or on the roof. If there as a fire, the Safety Curtain would be lowered immediately. If it had just managed to spread to the other side of the proscenium, the drencher would be pulled, releasing a wall of water down in front of the safety curtain to try to stop it from going further out into the auditorium.

Modern theatres are not fitted with these tools.

Usually, the stage curtain would be operated by pulleys or the usual hemp fly-weight system used. However, the Safety Curtain and Drencher were seperate, there was a lever to pull for the safety curtain to automatically go down or up, and another beside it for the drencher to be released. Because they were beside each other, sometimes there was a little confusion, and on a number of occasions, there were interesting throwbacks to 'Singing in the Rain' in some West End Houses as the interval began.
The rain we knew is a thing of the past -
deep-delving, dark, deliberate you would say
browsing on spire and bogland; but today
our sky-blue slates are steaming in the sun,
our yachts tinkling and dancing in the bay
like racehorses. We contemplate at last
shining windows, a future forbidden to no one.


Derek Mahon

"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."

Arthur Miller
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Justin D
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re: Safety Curtians?#3
Posted: 6/19/07 at 3:49pm
Id love to see someone "accedentaly" pull the drencher .
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27199361@N08/ Phantom at the Royal Empire Theatre
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Mark_E
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re: Safety Curtians?#4
Posted: 6/19/07 at 4:37pm
Yeah it would be funny, unless its at Avenue Q when im in the front of the stalls lol. Would be funny being in the upper circle and be like.. hmm whats happening down there.
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rohingit
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re: Safety Curtians?#5
Posted: 6/20/07 at 4:24am
also (correct me if i'm wrong) but i'm pretty sure that by law you have to lower this at some point in the performance and usualy its done in the interval. If i remember rightly a theatre can get in trouble if it does not do this.
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re: Safety Curtians?#6
Posted: 6/20/07 at 5:29am
Hang on, one thing i want to know is why doesnt the victoria apollo have a saftey curtain. Unless the actuall map, which is the curtain in Wicked is the saftey curtain, which would make sense as it is a framed peice rather than the traditional curtain! And that does make sense because the other day when I saw Drowsy they bought the saftey curtain down and straight back up again 5 minutes befor the show started as of course they dont have an interval!
"If you talk about my family I will punch you in the fanny so hard it'll end up on your face... oh, looks like someone beat me to it!" - Dawn French
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Weez
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re: Safety Curtians?#7
Posted: 6/20/07 at 5:40am
That would make sense. I'm a little concerned about the Gielgud though; the one-act 'Frost/Nixon' didn't have an interval-curtain-lowering (for obvious reasons), and they didn't do it for 'Equus' either. It does *have* a safety curtain, right? o_O
Updated On: 6/20/07 at 05:40 AM
Wicked63
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re: Safety Curtians?#8
Posted: 6/20/07 at 9:31am
What a brilliant thread! Its a legal requirment that the audience see the curtain lowered and raised at every performance but as mentioned before i think with new buildings much stricter fire safety precautions were built into the theatres. A lot of old theatres would have beatiful paintings on them. The 'iron' as it used to be know as is thankfully in use at a lot of theatres. The Victoria Palace has a painting on its iron of a full house at the Victoria Palace!! Great Fun! The Palladium has a painting of what the building looked like when it was Henglers Circus!! The one at the Barbican, which may be the last theatre to have a safety curtain fitted has one that rises from the orchesrtra pit and lowers from the flys and meets in the middle!!! In the 50s,60s onwards a white screen was painted on a lot of them and adverts were screened during the interval!! In all my hundreds of viits to Broadway theatres i can honestly say it didnt cross my mind about safety curtains- running to get fresh air proberbly prevented me! I saw a performance of Babes In Arms at Swansea Grand Theatre in the 80s with Mathew Kelly and Su Pollard. Sure enough the safety was lowered but when it was raised as the entre' act was played it stopped at about 3 feet. The company were on stage waiting to start and on noticing what happened Su Pollard and full company broke into a full 42nd Street routine to the great enjoyment of the audience. It took 20mins to winch the curtain up by hand!!!
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re: Safety Curtians?#9
Posted: 6/20/07 at 9:37am
....all theatres years ago used to employ a fireman whose sole job was to keep fire watch around the building. He even had the right to wonder across- tho not in view of the audience- the stage and the set to check on the safety of things. Im sure there arnt many firemen in theatres any more which i think tells us that much stricter rules are now in place- even in old theatres like the good old Guilgud! The Apolo Victoria was originaly claasified as a cinema- one of the 'SuperCinemas' of the 30s and 40s and may get away with it because of that, i may be wrong!
Updated On: 6/20/07 at 09:37 AM
Wicked63
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re: Safety Curtians?#10
Posted: 6/20/07 at 9:42am
As stage sets got more and more elaborate and started to grow out into the auditorium the sets had to be designed with a slot for the safety curtain to be lowered. Some they were obvious- The Rink at the Cambridge. The not so obvious -Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane. drury Lane is another beatiful safety curtain. Its realy worth delaying your visit to the bar or loo in some theatrs so you can get to see these little seen but very valuble works of art! Thanks for listening to me- i hope you enjoyed my input here xx
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re: Safety Curtians?#11
Posted: 6/20/07 at 4:39pm
All theatres in the UK still required by law to have a fireman present at every performance. The curtain cannot go up without the fireman being present. He's not a fireman in the coventional sense but never the less is employed for health and safety laws.
Updated On: 6/20/07 at 04:39 PM
Wicked63
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re: Safety Curtians?#12
Posted: 6/20/07 at 6:34pm
Yea thanks, i guessed they did. Years ago theatre firemen where stars in them selves ,some haveing worked at the same theatre for ever!!
vmlinnie
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re: Safety Curtians?#13
Posted: 6/21/07 at 6:43pm
I do love Safety Curtains!

The adore the Victoria Palace's. It's like a mirror.
The rain we knew is a thing of the past -
deep-delving, dark, deliberate you would say
browsing on spire and bogland; but today
our sky-blue slates are steaming in the sun,
our yachts tinkling and dancing in the bay
like racehorses. We contemplate at last
shining windows, a future forbidden to no one.


Derek Mahon

"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."

Arthur Miller
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re: Safety Curtians?#14
Posted: 4/24/08 at 8:16pm
Looking in the dungeons of the achieve I loved this thread and prompted a question.

Does the New London Theatre have a safety curtain? I did not notice one when I saw Cats and would be convinced this would be impossible, can shows/theatres get a exemption?
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re: Safety Curtians?#15
Posted: 4/24/08 at 8:45pm
no i dont think it does
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re: Safety Curtians?#16
Posted: 4/24/08 at 9:21pm
We have safety curtains here in Australia, though rarely have I seen them lowered at a performance time. Many (many) years ago when I was about 16 during summer school holidays I got a job with a theatre chain here in Melbourne. Every morning it was my job to climb up into the fly tower at the Comedy Theatre and raise the safety curtain - I don't know who by or when it was lowered, presumably after an evening performance.

In order to raise the curtain, as I have said I'd have to climb up into the fly tower and crank by rotating (sorry can't think of the technical term) a drum like mechanism. One full - very heavy rotation would raise the curtain about 6", it took about 30 minutes to raise it above a 27' proscenium. I do remember at the time we were in the middle of a heat wave so the temperature was frequently in the high 30's C. Not quite the glamour of the theatre I'd anticipated.
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re: Safety Curtians?#17
Posted: 4/24/08 at 9:41pm
Modern theatres are required to install them tho there are excpetions
A young actress with Noel coward after a dreadful opening night performance said to him 'Well, i knew my lines backwards this morning!'' Noels fast reply was ''Yes dear, and thats exactly how you said them tonight'!'
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re: Safety Curtians?#18
Posted: 5/4/08 at 8:41am
The story I've heard was that a long long time ago
there was a fire on the stage, but becouse the safety curtaine wasn't used fore a while, it got stuck.. so the theatre completley burnd out..

so now every night the check if it's still works, just in case..