Fire, Flood, Injury: Infamous Stage Disasters & Insurance Considerations

Posted by Grant Patten on Mar 4, 2020 10:13:39 AM

Fire, Flood, Injury: Infamous Stage Disasters & Insurance Considerations

Infamous Stage Disasters - National TheatreLondon’s National Theatre | Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo ID: 1164426331.

This post reviews some infamous theatrical stage disasters that have happened over the years. We cannot guarantee that any of these disasters would have necessarily been covered under any insurance claim (coverage decisions are ultimately up to the insurance company), but it is nonetheless instructive to consider what has gone wrong during past live productions – and how insurance might have been helpful – especially if you work in the theatre world.

Globe Theatre fire – London, 1613

In 1613, the Globe Theatre in London burnt to the ground. This was the theatre where most of Shakespeare’s plays debuted, including The Tempest.

How did it happen?

A theatrical cannon – set off during a performance of All is True/Henry VIII – misfired, igniting the wooden beams and roof. There were no reports of any injuries.

A year later the theatre was rebuilt, only to be eventually demolished by the Puritans on ideological grounds.

Iroquois Theatre fire – Chicago, 1903

This tragedy was the deadliest theatre fire and the deadliest single-building fire in US history, resulting in at least 602 deaths.

How did it happen?

During a matinee of the musical Mr. Blue Beard, sparks from an arc light ignited a curtain, probably as a result of an electrical short circuit. The fire spread quickly from there and those in the crowded theatre began to panic and flee, but this resulted in a human stampede of sorts, and many weren’t able to get out alive.

Way Upstream flood – London, 1982

During a rehearsal of the play Way Upstream – which is set on a cabin cruiser boat on an English river – at London’s National Theatre in 1982, the water tank simulating the river burst. This flooded the National Theatre.

How did it happen?

The theatre had built a 6K-gallon tank for the boat, but the tank eventually broke and deluged the stage and seating area nearby. The boat had been weighed down by a dozen people, half of them stage crew, at the time of the flood.

Mamma Mia! hair dryer slip – London, 2014

During a performance of Mamma Mia! in London, actress Kim Ismay (as "Tanya") once swung a hair dryer straight into an audience member’s face! The hair dryer’s cable had snapped mid-song, sending the dryer flying into the crowd.

The audience member was given champagne during the interval to apologize for the accident. A nice touch, certainly – but not likely to be adequate if the patron still decides to sue.

Our SOLO Theatrical Insurance program includes General Liability. This coverage is designed to protect against all sums that the insured shall become legally obligated to pay for bodily injury, property damage or personal injury to third parties arising out of the operations of the insured production. It includes the cost of a lawyer to defend you.

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DISCLAIMER: Informational statements regarding insurance coverage are for general description purposes only. These statements do not amend, modify or supplement any insurance policy. Consult the actual policy or your broker for details regarding terms, conditions, coverage, exclusions, products, services and programs which may be available to you. Your eligibility for particular products and services is subject to the final determination of underwriting qualifications and acceptance by the insurance underwriting company providing such products or services. This website does not make any representations that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss, or type of claim or loss, under any policy. Whether coverage exists or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any policy depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss and all applicable policy wording.

 

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Topics: Theatre Insurance

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