Following so closely on the heals of December’s prop-knife accident, I was stunned to see another story of actor/prop negligence leading to serious injury. I take this as a reminder to triple & quadruple check all props before shows & rehearsals.
Real-life tragedy nearly struck at a Florida theatre on Monday night, when an actor fired a live gun at a cast member’s head.
During rehearsals for an amateur production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in Sarasota, the show’s director, Bill Bordy, shot 81-year-old actor Fred Kellerman in the back of the head at point-blank range, only to realize with horror that the gun he used was loaded with live ammunition. Luckily the shot only grazed Kellerman’s skull, and he was quickly released from hospital.
The incident occurred during the final run-through of the play’s last scene, in which George Milton shoots his friend Lennie Small to spare him a painful death at the hands of a lynch mob. The Smith and Wesson pistol had been borrowed from a fellow cast member in the Sarasota Senior Theater who had, it appeared, forgotten that it was loaded.
In his defence, Bordy told reporters: “I’m the actor, I’m the director and we’re running late, and without thinking I didn’t check the gun.”
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, dear Lord, no’. Luckily I was a lousy shot.”
The shooting comes only a month after the attention of the world’s media was seized by another theatrical near-disaster – albeit one that occurred several thousands of miles away, in Vienna. Actor Daniel Hoevels made headlines in December after cutting his throat on stage with what turned out to be a real blade. The city’s Burgtheater later admitted that the knife had been left out by a stage manager who had forgotten to blunt it; Hoevels suffered only minor injuries and was treading the boards again the following night.
For his part, Kellerman claimed the worst part of being shot was the loud bang, which caused him to lose his hearing momentarily, followed by a painful tetanus shot administered by nurses at the hospital.
The show went ahead on schedule just two hours later, with an understudy filling Kellerman’s shoes.
No charges have been filed, although police are still investigating the incident.