Injury at Spider-Man Halts Dec. 20 Performance; Taymor Issues Statement

News   Injury at Spider-Man Halts Dec. 20 Performance; Taymor Issues Statement
 
An actor, who has since been identified as Christopher Tierney, an ensemble member/stunt double for the aerobatic title character in the Broadway show Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, fell from a raised platform into a pit in the stage of the Foxwoods Theatre at the Dec. 20 performance, sustaining unknown injuries that required an ambulance.

Christopher Tierney
Christopher Tierney

A spokesman confirmed that the injured actor was a stunt double, and not rising star Reeve Carney, who plays the singing/speaking Peter Parker/Spider-Man role. It was not immediately clear if others were injured in the incident, though Playbill.com did learn that co-star Jennifer Damiano was not injured and that Tierney was the only person requiring hospitalization.

The New York Post reports that a nurse at Bellevue Hospital confirmed that Tierney, an ensemble member/aerialist in the production, was admitted to the hospital and was in stable condition. She would not provide further details about his status, although CNN reports that Tierney is listed in "serious condition," according to Bellevue Hospital spokesman Steven Bohlen. The New York Times says Tierney suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding.

After the spill, which eyewitnesses said was accompanied by a possible snapped cable or wire (indicated by a piece of equipment that fell on the audience), shouts for "911" were heard from staff. The New York Times reported that the fall may have been from a height of 8-10 feet, but some reports indicated that the height may have been higher. CNN reports that the actor fell a distance of 20-30 feet.

At 12:15 AM Dec. 21, a spokesman for the show wrote in an e-mail: "An actor sustained an injury at tonight's performance. He fell several feet from a platform approximately seven minutes before the end of the performance, and the show was stopped. All signs were good as he was taken to the hospital for observation. We will have more news shortly."

Actress Natalie Mendoza, who suffered a concussion during the first preview of the musical, posted on her Twitter account Dec. 21, "Please pray with me for my friend Chris, my superhero who quietly inspires me everyday with his spirit. A light in my heart went dim tonight." Actors' Equity, the labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theatre, released this statement at 9:43 AM Dec. 21: "We were informed shortly after the accident during the performance of Spiderman. We are working in cooperation with the state and city Department of Labor on this situation. We don't have a further statement at this time." A request by Playbill.com for an interview with Equity was denied.

Equity released a second, stronger statement at 11:29 AM Dec. 21: "Actors' Equity Association is working with management and the Department of Labor to ensure that performances will not resume until back-up safety measures are in place."

No performance is scheduled for Dec. 21, a scheduling decision made prior to this latest incident. The Dec. 22 matinee has been canceled; performances will resume the evening of Dec. 22. A statement from the show's spokesperson, regarding the cancellation, reads, "OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], Actors Equity and the New York State Department of Labor have met with the Spider-Man company today to discuss additional safety protocols. It was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately. Tomorrow's matinee has been postponed and will be rescheduled. Tomorrow evening's, and all subsequent performances will proceed as scheduled."

Equity released its third statement at 4:42 PM, saying that the incident was the result of "human error." The statement, in full, reads, "Actors' Equity Association worked today with the Department of Labor, OSHA and the production to determine that the cause of the accident at last night's performance of Spiderman was, in fact, human error. Further protocols are now being implemented, including redundancies recommended by Equity, the DOL and OSHA, to address this situation as well as other elements of the production. Equity continues to vigilantly monitor the production for the safety of its members."

Director Julie Taymor issued the following statement: "An accident like this is obviously heartbreaking for our entire team and, of course, to me personally. I am so thankful that Chris is going to be all right and is in great spirits. Nothing is more important than the safety of our Spider-Man family, and we’ll continue to do everything in our power to protect the cast and crew."

James J. Claffey, Jr., president of Local One IATSE, also released a statement, which reads: "The leadership of Local One IATSE met today with OSHA, the New York State Department of Labor, Actors Equity Association, and Spider-Man management. The union will continue to pursue the highest level of safety on this production. For Local One IATSE, safety is and has always been paramount for everyone on stage and backstage and for the audience in front of the curtain. The union will insist that safety checks and redundancies are added to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Spider-Man. The union also sends its best wishes to stuntman Christopher Tierney and its hopes for his rapid recovery."

The technically complex musical production directed by Julie Taymor, with music by Bono and The Edge, has been beset with glitches and accidents in its preview period. The several actor injuries include a concussion for a principal actress, and broken feet and broken wrists for acrobat-actors in the show.

Michael Cohl, lead producer of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, announced Dec. 17 that the new musical will delay its opening to Feb. 7, 2011, from the previously set Jan. 11 to implement changes. He said, "It has become clear that we need to give the team more time to fully execute their vision. Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is an extremely ambitious undertaking, as everyone knows, and I have no intention of cutting a single corner in getting to the finish line."

The $65 million musical also stars Next to Normal Tony nominee Jennifer Damiano as Peter Parker's girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, and Broadway veteran Patrick Page as villainous Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin.

They are joined by Natalie Mendoza, Michael Mulheren, Ken Marks, Isabel Keating, Jeb Brown, T.V. Carpio, Mat Devine, Gideon Glick, Jonathan Schwartz, Matthew James Thomas, Laura Beth Wells, Matt Caplan, Dwayne Clark, Luther Creek, Gerald Avery, Collin Baja, Marcus Bellamy, Emmanuel Brown, Erin Elliott, Dana Marie Ingraham, Ayo Janeen Jackson, Heather Lang, Ari Loeb, Natalie Lomonte, Kevin Loomis, Kristin Martin, Jodi McFadden, Kristen Oei, America Olivo, Jennifer Perry, Kyle Post, Brandon Rubendall, Sean Samuels, Dollar Tan and Christopher Tierney.

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