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Gunshots in a play

  • 1.  Gunshots in a play

    Posted 19 days ago

    Good evening,
    I was wondering how you all handle gunshots in performance.  Do any of you use prop guns with blanks anymore?  If so, what safety measures are in place? Plastic guns with a sound effect?  

    Thank you for your feedback.
    Katie Alley



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    Katie Alley
    Theatre Teacher
    TN
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  • 2.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 19 days ago
     I use a clapper backstage, two pieces of wood hinged together snapped shut at the moment of the shot, carefully choreographed so as to look and sound realistic. Works like a charm.





  • 3.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 19 days ago
    I never use blanks - there is still the risk of a projectile flying out of the weapon if the weapon is real.  Prop gun that was built as a prop - never an actual weapon.  And a sound effect of the shot.  Also post a notice in the lobby, state in the curtain speech, and write it in the program that "gunshot sounds and weapons on stage will be in this production"  now have fun!

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    Holly Rose
    Drama Teacher
    Federal Way High School
    WA
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  • 4.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 19 days ago
    I find it helpful to have the shooter's arm fly back when the sound is heard (whether that weapon would have a kick to it or not) , to clarify visually that it was the gun that caused that gunshot noise. Also, before the shot, a slow lowering of the arm (and maybe even a splaying out of the elbow(s)) creates a much more manageable cue than any sort of quick-draw movement.
    A couple of 2x4's snapped together at the right moment, as Elisabeth suggests, does indeed make the right sound (hopefully not too far away from action to wings).
    And sound effects offer so many choices of gunshot..but again, you've got to get the timing right.

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    Douglas "Chip" Rome
    Theatre Consultant
    Educational Stages
    Burke VA
    http://EducationalStages.com
    https://bit.ly/RWTEOview
    https://bit.ly/eTeachTech
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  • 5.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 18 days ago
    I used the same starter pistols used in track and field. They are very loud, though, so certain safety measures are necessary.

    --
    Ann Hileman, M.A.
    Executive Board of Indiana Thespians
    Indiana Thespian Hall of Fame
     
    Maconaquah High School
    256 East 800 South
    Bunker Hill, IN 46914
    765-689-9131 x 5550 (phone)
    765-689-9528 (fax)

     





  • 6.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 17 days ago
    I've seen a number of lobby signs announcing the use of "shot sounds," and, thinking like a member of the public who may not be familiar with the story, my first question would be "why?"

    For my money, I would rather see a sign that says something along the lines of, "This story requires a character to fire a weapon. The prop weapon we use is safe, but it will make a loud noise." Something like that.

    What that does is put the use of the weapon directly on the shoulders of the story and also tells me that it's safe.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
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  • 7.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 5 days ago
      |   view attached
    Sorry for joining this conversation late.  I wanted to share a prop weapons waiver form that I developed and have used at several school districts.  I've left it in Word, so if you'd like to use it, feel free to adapt the wording to your situation.

    Beth

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    Beth Rand, EBMS
    Educational Lighting Designer
    School Theatre Operations Specialist
    District Auditorium Specialist for SVVSD


    RandCDLLC@gmail.com
    Westminster, CO

    www.PRESETT.org
    Tech theatre books
    Free downloads
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    ------------------------------

    Attachment(s)



  • 8.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 5 days ago
    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies on this important topic!
    Katie Alley






  • 9.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 5 days ago
    A number of years ago I was the prop master and weapons wrangler at a large community theatre, and our procedure was pretty much what Beth wrote out in her agreement, the only difference being that we provided the weapons (rented, bought, or from our collection). I was the only one who handled them prior to a production, they were locked away when not in use, and they went from secure storage to a deck manager, then to the actor, back to the deck manager, and back to storage after use.

    I also introduced a couple of extra steps.

    Just before the first dress rehearsal started, I did a safety briefing for the entire cast and crew, basically an orientation to the weapon (and what it sounded like if it was a gun: ours were based on starter pistols), plus a "look all you want but don't touch" reminder. I also made up a couple of "LOADED" tags to put on guns to make it obvious to everyone. These were small pieces of wood, painted red, with "LOADED" written on them and a string that went thru the finger guard. We used a rental company that supplied all kinds of theatrical weapons, including period pistols, rifles and other items that they made themselves from starter pistols, and each one came with safety and cleaning instructions.


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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
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  • 10.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 3 days ago

    Respectfully, George, that worked fine 30 years ago but there is no reason to have any kind of fire-able weapon on stage now. We've had too many people killed, deafened or injured from blank-firing guns and using them isn't worth the risk at the educational or non-profit theater level. 

    I've been doing a fair amount of expert witness work with theater safety and these stories break my heart as well as the hearts of the bereaved and the wallets of those who didn't put use the safest method possible. 

    Use a wooden or rubber replica and a sound effect. The audience knows they are seeing a play, they will be far better with that than something that could hurt them or someone else. 



    ------------------------------
    Kristi Ross-Clausen
    Safety Maven/Consultant
    IATSE 470/Actors Equity Member
    Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education
    Association for Quality in AV Board
    AVIXA/USITT
    Teacher, Author, Speaker
    www.theaterhealthandsafety.com
    Appleton, WI
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  • 11.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 3 days ago
    Hi, Kristii,

    Thanks for your note. I guess I should have been clearer: it wasn't 30 years ago, it was 15.  :)

    In any case, it worked for us because we were very careful to educate everyone involved and then followed through to make sure it all happened safely. I would guess that the vast majority of accidents are due to carelessness, but that's only a guess. I know the guy who took over from me wasn't as detailed as I was.

    As much as I'm of the opinion that there are lots of plays that don't require gunshots and that therefore the safety problem is easily avoided, I know some schools and nonprofits will continue to stage them and have to deal with how to do it. Maybe the "ideal" solution would be to fall back on modern technology and come up with an electronic device that sounds right but doesn't fire anything, small enough to place inside a wood or plastic weapon. That's a niche that I will happily leave to someone else to fill.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
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  • 12.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 3 hours ago

    It's a risk-benefit analysis. The risk of something going very wrong is far, far, far greater than the benefit of doing it with a weapon that is fireable. 

    A recent example from our friends in the film world: What We Know About the Fatal Shooting on Alec Baldwin's Movie Set

    Nytimes remove preview
    What We Know About the Fatal Shooting on Alec Baldwin's Movie Set
    Fatal Shooting on Set of 'Rust' The authorities are investigating the death of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Rust" in Santa Fe County. Here's what we know. Send any friend a story As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
    View this on Nytimes >


    And having the volume controlled at the sound board, rather than from something hidden in the prop "gun" helps protect hearing, too. 



    ------------------------------
    Kristi Ross-Clausen
    Safety Maven/Consultant
    IATSE 470/Actors Equity Member
    Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education
    Association for Quality in AV Board
    AVIXA/USITT
    Teacher, Author, Speaker
    www.theaterhealthandsafety.com
    Appleton, WI
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  • 13.  RE: Gunshots in a play

    Posted 3 hours ago

    Respectfully, George, that was fine 30 years ago. Now there is zero reason to have any kind of weapon that can actually fire used in educational theater and a whole host of reasons to stick with non-firable replicas from rubber or wood and a volume moderated gun shot effect instead. 

    We've had too many incidents of deafness, injury and even death from prop guns firing blanks. To use a blank-firing weapon safely takes a trained armorer with another equally well trained person to double check the work. And even in professional situations where people who claim to have those credentials are working, people still get killed. 

    Our students can act and the audience will accept "it's a gun" without needing to be nervous about there actually BEING a gun in the space. 



    ------------------------------
    Kristi Ross-Clausen
    Safety Maven/Consultant
    IATSE 470/Actors Equity Member
    Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education
    Association for Quality in AV Board
    AVIXA/USITT
    Teacher, Author, Speaker
    www.theaterhealthandsafety.com
    Appleton, WI
    ------------------------------