Jack Payton and Zack Weaver
Staff Writer and News Editor
A small fire occurred in the UNCG auditorium on Tuesday, April 4, causing minor damage before being contained by UNCG faculty.
During the dress rehearsal for UNCG Opera Theatre’s performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul, a malfunctioning light sparked, igniting a portion of the stage curtain.
Professor David Holley, conductor of the play’s orchestra, was alerted to the fire by his graduate assistant James Scarantino during practice.
“He tapped me on the shoulder, and he said ‘Mr Ollie’, and I turned and he pointed, and at the top of the stage above the super-screen there was a ball of fire,” Holley stated.
“I was lying on the stage at the curtain line and I saw Mr. Holley pointing and yelling ‘Fire’ and I looked above my head and there was just flame,” Actress Lyndsey Swann, who played Magda Sorel, stated. “I just kinda froze for a second and I just immediately got up and said ‘get off the stage’ and I exited stage right.”
The building was quickly evacuated by staff and faculty.
“I had just gotten off-stage, I had a cue and I left, and I was in the dressing room and then my dressers came in and told me we had to evacuate,” said Willie Mack, who portrayed the secret policeman.
“We just sat kinda there a while waiting for instructions and all kinda in shock,” orchestra member Sam Frenduto stated, “then someone yelled ‘musicians leave now’ and we all kinda scrambled.”
During the evacuation, several UNCG faculty members, including Chip Haas, Ken White, Noah Davis, and Randy McMullen, put out the fire with several heavy duty fire extinguishers, aided by the stage crew. No one was injured in the fire, due to the prompt actions of the personnel at hand.
The flames charred an entire length of the curtain before being extinguished by UNCG staff. The foam from the extinguishers also damaged much of the electronics on and near the stage, most of it irreparably so.
The quick response and fire-retardant nature of the curtain prevented further damage to the building, though the curtain is currently being assessed to determine whether it must be replaced or if the damage could be repaired.
The set and the major materials for the production were determined to be undamaged and still useable for the play. The venue and materials were moved to the Taylor Theatre, where it enjoyed two successful performances However, some parts of the set were too large to transport, so the missing backgrounds were represented by a projected slideshow on the stage’s back wall.
The UNCG Auditorium has been closed until further notice for the inspection and any needed repairs.. Faculty are also considering where to move other events, including the performance by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis on April 20 if the auditorium is not re-opened in time.