Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In theatre scholarship, the event of the on-stage accident is a fairly neglected area of research. Aside from brief archival detailing of some of the more tragic events, scholars have not approached the accidents from a theoretical or historiographical position. Many, I surmise, find little of interest in an on-stage accident due to its lack of aesthetic purpose or intentionality. In this project, I focus on those neglected accidents and, more specifically, accidents that take place due to a violent failure of theatrical convention. I discuss three specific moments where a theatre convention – established to concretize the world of the play for the audience – turns violent before a live audience. I detail the apparatus of the convention and how it worked, as well as how it violently failed. Additionally, I discuss the cultural and material make-up of the event. My study begins with the recent on stage death of KÀ performer Sarah Guillot-Guyard in Las Vegas and a review of the terminology and scholarship pertinent to this study. I then focus on three discrete events/theatre conventions: nineteenth century gas light and the fatal accidents caused by its use, the recent Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and accidental injuries caused by prop weapons used during stage combat. What separates these conventions from an average theatre accident is their reliance on a technology in establishing the illusion of violence or danger. In my analysis I examine the phenomenology at play when a violent convention actually causes injury to the performer in front of an audience.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Fletcher, John