Playhouse accident causes cancellation of second half of Newsies show run

Written By Erin Yudt, Editor-Elect

This past Tuesday, February 28, the Dean of the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA) and Pittsburgh Playhouse director, Garfield Lemonius, sent an email to the campus community addressing an accident that resulted in three student injuries during Friday, February 24’s run of “Newsies.”


In the email, Lemonius stated that three students were injured when a “piece of scenery fell and a water pipe burst on the stage.” The injuries did not require hospitalization, according to Lemonius. 


Shows of “Newsies” were supposed to run throughout the weekend but were canceled due to the damage in the PNC Theatre as a result of the accident.


“We are prioritizing the mental and physical health of our students,” Lemonius said in a statement to The Globe. “The incredible folks in the Office of Student Affairs helped us share a list of support resources to the cast and crew involved in the production. They also consulted with some students to ensure they were in a good place, both physically and mentally and also arranged for a counselor to be on campus on Saturday afternoon to meet with students involved in the production.”


Lemonius also stated that the shows were sold out every night, which “spoke to the incredible work of the cast and crew.” 


Theater Department Chair April Daras became aware of the accident around 1 a.m. the following morning after receiving multiple texts and phone calls.


“My first and only real concern was the safety of our students, staff and the patrons,” Daras said. “We have never had anything like this happen before during a Playhouse production. I prayed that everyone was okay.”


Daras said she was in communication with Lemonius right away and that there are various procedures for different areas of the theater when there is a production.


“The house manager, Matthew Spadaccia guided the front of house crew to assist the audience in evacuating the auditorium,” Daras said. “As soon as the incident happened, the stage manager, senior Maya Holmes, followed emergency procedures, instructing actors and crew to leave the stage and evacuate the building. Public Safety was called, and emergency services were requested. Dean Garfield Lemonius, Playhouse Managing Director Drew Marterella and Playhouse Production Manager Adrienne Wells all arrived on scene to assist. Dean Paylo was also contacted.”


According to Daras, a community gathering with pizza was held in the afternoon of Saturday, February 25, for anyone in the production “to talk with one another, to share new information about those who were hurt and to be part of a supportive community.” A mobile team from the Resolve Crisis Center was also available to those present. 


Marc Palombo, a junior acting major and cast member of “Newsies,” said the accident “didn’t feel real.”


“I am usually up there [on the stage] during that time, but I forgot something on my costume, so I was in the dressing room, and I watched the header just collapse on the tv,” Palombo said. “It didn’t feel real… My mind is just on the health and well-being of my fellow students. My love goes out to all of them.”


According to Palombo, there was no prior indication of the accident.


“Everything was going smooth, normal,” Palombo said. “And we were so close to the end of the show too.”


According to Lemonius’ email, “work is currently underway to clean up the PNC Theatre and fix any resulting damage.” It is unclear if the rest of the scheduled events will be able to be held.