April 2014

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April 2014

News & Notices

'Arbor' Day Program Provides Safe Rigging for Schools

Janet Gramza Communications Associate

Last April, USITT held its first Arbor Day fund-raiser to increase support for its Rigging Safety Initiative established three years ago by JR Clancy. This year, members are asked to observe Arbor Day – for the rigging carriage – by spreading word of the initiative to secondary schools in their areas, or by earmarking a donation to USITT for the program.

Last fall’s round of applications saw the largest number of schools approved so far for free stage rigging inspections and training. Thirteen schools were accepted into the program, bringing the current total to 65 schools in 22 states.

The Rigging Safety Initiative, founded with a $10,000 donation from Clancy in 2011, aims to approve at least 20 schools a year in two rounds of applications, each spring and fall. The deadline for schools to apply for this spring is April 15. Apply here.

Schools are not covered by OSHA, and many can’t answer the question of when their stage rigging was last inspected. The Rigging Safety Initiative provides free rigging inspections and four-hour safety training for up to eight school staff and student stage crew members.

Two of the high schools accepted last fall reported accidents that stepped up the need for safety inspections.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

Jonathan Geller, theatre manager for the Aspen School District in Aspen, Colorado, said the accident at his high school theatre – where a heavy batten crashed to the stage and the arbor bent – led him to seek outside support for repairs and maintenance to the high school’s rigging system. His application included 10 photos of problems with the 58-line counterweight system, including one he captioned “Scary Note on Lineset 58” – showing a hand-written note on the controls that read, “Move VERY Slowly & Bounce Carefully!”

Mr. Geller said most people think of Aspen as well off, but the school district theatre hasn’t benefited from wealthy skiers vacationing at mountain resorts. Until the accident, he said, the district had little support even for routine upkeep and maintenance.

“Having this program pay for our inspection and safety training frees up money to allow us to actually make repairs,” he 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.”

 Besides Aspen, the other schools approved for the program are:

  • Sparta High School in Sparta, New Jersey,
  • Northwest Community High School in Indianapolis, Indiana,
  • 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.

The Rigging Safety Initiative is the only national program aimed at preventing safety problems on secondary school stages and instilling best safety practices at the student level. Besides JR Clancy, the program has received support from ETC in Middleton, Wisconsin; Shepard Exposition Services of Atlanta, Georgia; and H&H Specialties in South El Monte, California.

Every little bit helps. Share the link – www.usitt.org/rigging -- or make a contribution using this form.