Performances will go on at Star Plaza

Performer who kicked over light caused fire at theatre, investigators say
2011-02-10T17:15:00Z 2011-02-12T00:23:53Z Performances will go on at Star PlazaBy Chas Reilly and Molly Woulfe Times Staff Writers nwitimes.com
February 10, 2011 5:15 pm  • 

MERRILLVILLE | A Wednesday night fire inside the Star Plaza Theatre erupted after a performer with "Shanghai Circus Live" accidentally kicked over a high-powered light, investigators determined.

The light ignited a 26-foot red velvet curtain about 8:10 p.m. and forced 1,800 patrons to leave the theater, Ross Township Deputy Fire Marshal Phil Topor said. There were no injuries during the fire and evacuation.

Fire damage was limited to the curtain and sound equipment, said Charlie Blum, president and CEO of the Star Plaza Theatre. He said the estimated cost of the damage was not available Thursday.

The damage won't cancel future performances at the 3,400-seat venue, Blum said.

Firefighters inspected the theater at 9 a.m. Thursday and pronounced it safe to resume operations, he said.

"Everything's a go," Blum said. "That pretty much says everything."

The flames that theatergoers witnessed during the circus performance "were immediately extinguished by our sprinkler system," Blum said.

"Thank God they were operating as they should," he said.

A cleanup crew dealt with smoke and water damage Thursday, and a regional "Annie" cast was scheduled to rehearse at the theater Thursday night, Blum said. The Star Plaza hosts "Riverdance" on Friday, an American English Beatles tribute Saturday and "ABBA: The Concert" on Sunday.

Workers, vacuums strapped to their backs, cleaned the theater Thursday while several fans operated to dry areas doused by the sprinklers.

Crews also cleaned the stage and checked lamps and other equipment to make sure there was no damage.

A black curtain is being used in place of the fire-damaged curtain.

"Shanghai Circus Live" patrons can receive refunds until Feb. 26 at their point of purchase, Blum said.

Star Plaza collected items people left behind when they fled the building Wednesday. The items are in the theater's lost and found. People who need to retrieve lost items should call the theater at (219) 769-6311.

Blum commended theater staff for its efforts Wednesday to usher out patrons. Although no similar situations have occurred before at Star Plaza, employees there knew how to tackle the situation, Blum said.

"They acted as they should have according to protocol," Topor said.

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