A 24-year-old performer was burned on-stage Monday during a Lyric Opera House dress rehearsal.
An actor playing a fire-breathing stilt walker was critically burned when flames flared up on his face during a dress rehearsal at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“He blew one or two fireballs, and then it looked like he had spilled it (propellant) on his chin or his chest or something,” said Tribune photographer Jason Wambsgans, who was at the rehearsal late Monday afternoon. “It kind of consumed him, and he was staggering across the stage and then fell off his stilts on the opposite side of the stage.”
The actor, Wesley Daniel, 24, was taken in serious-to-critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital suffering burns to his throat and second-degree burns to his face, fire officials said.
Initially, it was thought Daniel was not suffering breathing problems, but he apparently was and the actor was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in critical condition, officials said.
Wambsgans said he arrived at the rehearsal at the beginning of the third act to take pictures for an upcoming Tribune review of the opera “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.”
The first scene of the third act took about an hour. It was in the second scene when Wambsgans pulled out a long-angle lens to take pictures of the busy stage full of extras, in this case, circus performers. Daniel was one of them.
When it appeared that Daniel, on stilts, was ready to put some sort of propellant in his mouth to shoot fireballs, Wambsgans said he started snapping and captured the flames flaring up on Daniel.
Wambsgans said he saw people in the wings of the stage spraying Daniel with fire extinguishers. “Half of the extras were transfixed by that,” Wambsgans said.
It took about 15 more seconds before the rest of the extras stopped singing and acting, realizing what had happened, he said.
After a 30-minute break, a visibly distressed crew was back rehearsing, Wambsgans said. But the rehearsal was cut short, ending about 6 p.m.
Daniel was wearing a flame-proof costume and mask, a spokeswoman for the Lyric said in an email. The dress rehearsal was interrupted, but it later resumed and was in the last act of “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” by about 5:30 p.m.
Daniel was performing a stunt that had been approved by the Fire Department, according to the Lyric.
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