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IRT tech. director hopes stage collapse will raise safety awareness

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A local stage director said the stage collapse in Westfield prompted a stronger focus on safety in the theatre he works at. He is hopeful something positive can come from the unfortunate incident.

Chris Fretts is the technical director for the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) and part of his job is making sure an accident like the one in Westfield does not happen at the IRT.

“It’s a very unfortunate event,” Fretts said. “It’s certainly not the kind of thing that we in the industry like to see.”

He said every structure has its limits and the key is being prepared come show time.

According to Fretts, the IRT stage has never collapsed and for various productions, it has held two tons of dirt and even cars.

“You’ve just got to be alert and aware of what those capabilities are,” he said.

For those shows, the crew increased protection beneath the stage. Sometimes they have to add two-by-fours for support or do additional research to ensure safety.

Fretts said safety is always a concern at IRT, and the recent collapse will make him even more concerned about safety.

“Also, hopefully it will raise more awareness in the industry in other people who work on stages and on orchestra pits,” he said.

According to Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Mark Keen, the Westfield High School stage was built in 1997.

Fretts said that is not too old of a structure, as long as it is properly maintained, and the stage at IRT was built in 1980.