April 2015

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April 2015

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Keeping Stages Safe on Arbor Day and Beyond

A very wise person once told me to measure progress not by the distance of the step, but by the direction. I quote that often because it may well be the thing that keeps my world in perspective.

In April we are celebrating Arbor Day as a day dedicated to rigging safety awareness. The lead up to this “Day of Rigging Safety” isn’t about celebrating one day where we try to be safe. We as an Institute have been, throughout our history, committed to safety in all areas of our industry. With that comes an ethos of questioning. Am I doing this properly? Are those around me safe or at a safe distance? These questions help us make movement towards a safer workplace on a daily basis.

Our industry, like many others, makes the news when there is tragedy. But how many days could we write stories celebrating a safe day in the theatre? There are far more stories of safe behavior that go unwritten, because they aren’t “newsworthy.”

Safety takes commitment. Safety takes time. Safety takes collaboration. Many times I’ve seen ideas shut down because “you can’t do that, it’s not safe.” My world was rattled when I heard a technical director once say in a production meeting, “That’s a great idea, let’s not dismiss it until we know there’s not some way to do it safely.” That attitude of exploration and innovation with a commitment to safety is why we have the amazing shows we have.

Every day, in theatres large and small, our profession makes people seem unearthly, larger than life, and magical. We create special effects that transport audiences, and sometimes ourselves, to new places. It’s all done with safety in mind.

Happily, we proved our commitment to acting safely when we evacuated the Duke Energy Convention Center during the conference. People didn’t question or argue, they just responded to the alarms and instructions in an orderly manner.

While I wasn’t happy a sensor had been missed when bypassing things for Stage Expo, I was happy to see people being professional and behaving just as we want people to do in an emergency.

I was particularly proud to be associated with USITT in that moment. Not only did we get out in an orderly fashion, we re-entered the building in the same way when the all clear was given. Thanks to everyone for being a shining example during our time outside.

In the month of April, when plant life is fighting its way back to the sun and renewing the earth, make the same commitment to renewal of safety awareness. We will never be perfect and accidents will happen. However, a renewed commitment to safety creates an environment that makes a better place for us all. Take a step towards a stronger culture of safety around you, and on April 24 help us promote Rigging Safety Day #RigSafe.