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The Warner Theatre Puts up the Nets

Stage Directions • April 2020Safety • March 24, 2020

Safety is the number one thing for everyone in a theater, no matter your role. Safety is an issue that effects everyone in the theater space—actors, musicians, crew, and audiences. There is one area in many theaters that doesn’t always get the same safety attention paid to it and that is the large hole at the front of many stages—the orchestra pit. An orchestra pit safety net is an ideal solution to protecting performers and technicians from falling into the pit during a performance and a proscenium-wide safety net can deal with technicians and crews working around the pit during load-ins and -outs.

Recently, the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT installed two variations of orchestra pit nets and a Stage Guard net from InCord, Inc. The Warner Theatre is a 1931 movie palace that has undergone renovations over the years to make it into a fully functioning space for theatrical productions as well as music, events, and other uses. We spoke with Sharon W. Houk, Producing Artistic Director for the Warner about their new nets.

Tell us about your theater space.
We have our own in-house production company, the Warner Stage Company and we have the Warner Center for Arts Education, with a young actor series performing on our main stage. We also have community groups—dance companies, local high school graduations, as well as other acts that come in. So we have a lot of different groups that come through that utilize the space.

What safety nets are in the theatre?
We have three different nets—a Stage Guard, which we use every day now. That one goes across the front of the stage, so if anybody walks in from the backstage area and moves forward, and we don’t have the orchestra lift at the stage height, they can’t walk right off the stage and get hurt. We also have the Orchestra Pit Net which goes over the orchestra pit when the orchestra pit lift is down, and then InCord actually crafted a special net for when we use our passerelle platforms that goes around the outside edge of the pit and over the orchestra, but there’s a gap in the center and on the edges. 

We have the nets in place anytime the orchestra pit is down—for the orchestra or at floor height for extra audience seating. We used it first for our production of Jekyll and Hyde, in past February. It was wonderful. They are a godsend. We’ve had this pit configuration since 2001. For almost 20 years, we worked without a net. Theater is always a magical place for people, but it’s a dangerous place too. With InCord’s products, it’s just made our theatre a much safer place to work in for everyone. 

How easy are they to deploy?
They are fantastic. Our production crew chief, Kyle Kurtich, can put it up by himself. We start on one side, hook it in, and then just go from corner to corner, and it’s in place in a matter of minutes; 10-minutes at the most. The Stage Guard net across the stage literally takes 30 seconds. That extra 30 seconds saves somebody from breaking a leg or falling or hurting themselves. It’s absolutely worth it to me to have the nets.

 

How was working with InCord?
InCord was fantastic. I cannot recommend their company highly enough. They’re so professional. They came in, they took our concerns to heart, because we do have a different configuration than a lot of people, because it is so multi-use, and they were able to come in with a solution for each one of the issues that we thought that we had. It was an absolute pleasure working with them. We can’t thank them enough.

What would you say about the importance of safety nets to others?
I know they’re expensive, but it’s necessary. As we have events in the theatre, and other people around, safety is of our utmost concern. We look at any place that we can make an improvement. So if you have an orchestra pit, especially if it’s an active space, and it’s open all the time, a net is really something that should be considered. 

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