On May 4th, a Providence, Rhode Island circus landed in the national news when a broken apparatus let eight female aerial acrobats plunge to the ground below, along with the metal structure that had been suspending them in the air. Around a dozen people were injured, and three remained in critical care the next day. A Providence Public Safety Commissioner investigated the scene and found that the clamp that held the apparatus to the rafters had failed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first accident to happen during a live performance. From malfunctioning equipment to careless performers, the risk of onstage injuries is just part of being in the biz. It can, and has happened, not only in circuses but during concerts, plays and musicals, as well. These are some of the most memorable in entertainment history:
7) Beyonce and a Fan
Almost one year ago, Beyonce was performing a concert in Montreal when she was trapped in an on stage emergency. During her single, “Halo” the singer was sitting on stage in front of fan, when the fan sucked her hair into its blades. Beyonce kept her cool, continuing to belt out the words while simultaneously trying to yank her hair free. Eventually, the crew members realized what was going on and cut Beyonce’s hair from the fan.
After the show, Beyonce made light of the situation by posting a note on her Instagram. She parodied “Halo,” writing about the fan incident: “Gravity can’t begin / to pull me out of this fan again / I felt my hair was yankin’ / from the fan that’s always hatin’.” Beyonce must have just been relieved that she wasn’t hurt!
6) David Bowie and a Lollipop
In 2004, David Bowie was injured onstage in Norway when an audience member threw a lollipop onstage, the stick of which hit Bowie right in his eye. After receiving medical attention offstage, Bowie continued the gig. He told the crowd, “Lucky you hit the bad one.” The eye hit by the lollipop was previously injured in a playground fight when Bowie was just a kid, leaving it permanently dilated. Bowie asked the person who threw the lollipop to come forward, but no one did. However, it’s suspected that the lollipop was thrown out of adoration, not hate. In fact, Norwegians refer to the candy as, “love on a stick.”
5) Nirvana and a Bass
At the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards, Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic nearly sent himself to the hospital when he threw his bass guitar on his head. This wasn’t the first time Novoselic threw his bass high into the air, mid-show, but it was the first time he didn’t catch it. The guitar landed on his head so hard that it caused him to fall over. He got up, only to stumble off stage. After being scrutinized by paramedics, Novoselic drank it off with Queen’s guitarist. Novoselic later said of the entire incident, “The only time I’ve ever dropped [the bass trick] was then, in front of 300 million people. Ouch! … I signed the release just to get the medics away from me so I could take a sip of Mr. May’s wonderful medicine.”
4) Hamlet and a Sword
During Hamlet on Broadway in the mid 90s, Damian Lewis was sent to the hospital after a sword fight gone wrong. In a scene where Hamlet and Laertes duel, Lewis split his eyebrow open when he hit himself in the head with the pummel of his own sword. His co-star, Ralph Fiennes kept acting, despite the blood pouring down Lewis’s face. When he was close enough, though, Fiennes whispered to Lewis, asking him if he was okay. Lewis was able to finish the show, but he went to the hospital straight afterwards for stitches.
Lewis ultimately blames the mistake on himself. He said, “This fight was getting faster and faster, because we were getting kind of cocky. We were just a bunch of 20-year-old, horny Englishmen on Broadway having the time of our life in a smash-hit show, so we were staying out later and later.”
3) Spider-Man the Musical and a Curse
So many accidents happened during the run of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, that the show was deemed cursed. Two actresses playing the character Arachne, sustained injuries. The first, Natalie Mendoza, hurt herself during the first preview and ended up leaving the show. For the next Arachne actress, T.V. Carpio, an on-stage battle became too realistic when she actually hurt herself. Carpio also had to take a break from the show to recover and let her understudy, America Olivo take over in the meanwhile. But Arachne isn’t the only dangerous role. Stuntman, Joshua Kobak ended up suing the production after he sustained injuries in both knees, two herniated discs, a concussion and whiplash.
The worst incident during Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, however, was when Christopher Tierney hurt himself in the middle of the show. As a stunt double for Spider-Man, he fell off of a 30 foot platform and was hurt so badly that the show had to be stopped. The fall caused when the cable from Tierney’s harness snapped, and he had to be rushed to the hospital for broken ribs and internal bleeding. Tierney was able to return to the production only five months later.
2) Cirque du Soleil and a Deadly Fall
In June 2013, tragedy occurred during a performance of Cirque du Soleil when one of the performers fell during her act, a scene where two imperial twins fight in the air to save their palace from evil warriors. While performing acrobatics and martial arts suspended in the air, aerialist, Sarah Guyard-Guillot suddenly plummeted 90 feet into the pit below the stage. Most audience members thought it was part of the show until they heard a woman screaming in pain. Guyard-Guillot died of her injuries before she even made it to the hospital. The 31-year-old, a mother of two, is said to have climbed down the onstage rope too quickly, which caused it to come out of its pulley. Without the rope supporting her, Guyard-Guillot free falled to her death.
This horrific death occurred in Las Vegas near the finale of Cirque du Soleil’s show, Kà, the tagline of which is “An epically, extraordinary adventure.” For Cirque du Soleil, the tragedy during Kà not only meant the loss of one of their most experienced acrobats, but also a huge hit to their name. Later the very same day, their Michael Jackson tribute show, Michael Jackson ONE, was premiering. With stars like Justin Bieber and Spike Lee in attendance, Cirque du Soleil had been expecting the red carpet event to be all over the news but instead, the death during Kà vastly overshadowed it, giving them the exact opposite kind of publicity than what they wanted.
1) Passion of the Christ and a Hanging
In 2012, Brazilian actor, Tiago Klimeck died onstage while playing Judas, in the Passion of the Christ in San Paulo. In the Passion, Judas betrays Jesus and later commits suicide by hanging himself. When Klimeck acted out the hanging, something went terribly wrong. He was unconscious in real life for four minutes before his fellow cast mates realized that he was actually being strangled. Klimeck was only 27 years old when he died. A video of the performance, including Kimeck’s death, remains online today.
Two years earlier, the exact same thing happened to an Italian actor playing Judas, Renato Di Paolo. The 23-year-old was portraying Judas in a performance in Rome when he accidentally hanged himself. With these deaths in mind, the famous rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar uses a dummy, in place of a real actor, for Judas’s hanging scene.