Fire, Flood, Injury: Infamous Stage Disasters & Insurance Considerations
London’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 National had constructed a 6,000-gallon tank to hold the boat; the tank eventually split and deluged the stage machinery. 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 (who plays Tanya) once swung a hair dryer around by its cable mid-song (as she does every night) only for the cable to snap and the hair dryer to hit an audience member in the face!
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.
Consider Front Row Theatre Insurance | Performing Arts Insurance | Liability Insurance for Theatre Production Companies
Get a theatre insurance quote from Front Row in just 2 minutes: https://stagelive.frontrowinsurance.com/
Offering a simple and quick solution, our SOLO Theatrical Insurance program can be purchased online with a credit card in six minutes and can include the following coverage for up to 4-weeks with no minimum premium:
- Up to $5,000,000 in General Liability Coverage.
- Optional Theatrical Property coverage for Equipment, Props, Sets, and Wardrobe.
- Additional Insured certificates for your venue(s) for no additional cost.
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