Saturday, April 20, 2002

School takes precautions

Mason involves theater safety in curriculum

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer contributor

        MASON — At Mason High School, where The Wiz continues tonight, school staff members have been discussing how to make the theater a safer climate for students.

        At the April 9 Mason City Schools Board of Education meeting, Dave Lenert asked fellow board members to consider requiring stage crew students to wear hard hats.The board agreed and staff members are working out the logistics for procuring the protective gear.

        Earlier this year, a team of six school employees, including interim principal Sally Shields, reviewed the curriculum and decided to institute two in-depth technical drama courses for Mason.

        The courses will begin next fall and cover theater safety, equipment use, set construction and more with hands-on work for advanced students.

        Mason play director Allen Young has not seen any major accidents during Mason play rehearsals and said the safety measures already in place are sound.

        “It's like anything you do,” said Mr. Young, who has 20 student productions from various districts under his belt. “If you're in chemistry class, you're going to have chemicals.”

        Auditorium manager Jack Martin, a member of Cincinnati Stage Employees Local No. 5 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, supervises the students working with equipment such as robotic lights, saws and drills. He also checks the equipment and gives individual instruction.

        Stage manager Jamie Newland, 18, has been involved in Mason theater for four years. She said that crews are well-trained by Mr. Martin and are allowed to specialize. She said students could decide their limits; those afraid of heights are not required to use the catwalk.

        Tom Guidugli Jr., Cincinnati Stage Employees Local No. 5 manager, has not heard of another local school requiring hard hats for stage crews, but welcomes additional safety measures. He said if students learn safety now, they are better prepared professionally, because many theaters require more safety training than the union provides.

       The Wiz features more than 70 students, including 25 crew and 18 intermediate school children. It continues 7:30 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: 459-7336.


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