The annual Yale Anti-Gravity Society fire show — during which undergraduate torch jugglers, fire breathers and other performers send flames blazing through the sky over Beinecke Plaza — may be performed for the last time this year after producing shows for nearly two decades.
The Anti-Gravity Society must obtain a permit signed by Assistant to the President Nina Glickson, the Yale Police Department and Yale Fire Marshal Michael Johns to use the plaza for their show each Halloween. This year, the show was approved and the society obtained all necessary signatures, but Johns sent the group an e-mail informing them that he will probably not sign off on the show in future years.
Johns said there are several reasons for his decision, including issues of liability, a lack of manpower and general safety concerns.
“It takes time and man-hours away from inspections,” Johns said. “It’s become an issue of staffing and where best to use it.”
To ensure that the show is performed in a safe way, Johns said, his staff must thoroughly inspect the area before he gives his approval. Johns said while he does not think the show is a serious safety hazard, he cannot ignore the general risks posed by a performance involving fire.
Members of the Anti-Gravity Society said they are still optimistic regarding the future of their Halloween show.
“We have a lot of equipment and a lot of energy invested in creating the show, and I like to think the entertainment value is there as well,” society President Greg Jordan ’07 said.
Jordan said he plans to wait until the spring before organizing a meeting between society officers and the fire marshal to negotiate a compromise for the future.
In the meantime, the group has taken extensive security measures to make sure the show is performed safely, said Evan Orenstein ’08, the society officer in charge of the fire performance.
“We have a number of difficult safety practices, we have a protocol that we’ve written up and we’re trying to formalize a number of things that we’ve been doing for a long time now,” Orenstein said, “so we’re trying to show the fire department how we’ve minimized any potential dangers.”
Johns said he is receptive to negotiation with the society.
“Fundamentally, I have not made a decision on it yet,” said Johns. “I want to hear what [the Society members] have to say.”
A number of students who have attended the fire show in past years said it is usually popular and draws large crowds.
“I thought it was a pretty amazing show last year, and I appreciate how much they dedicate to putting on a great display,” Laura Harringa ’08 said.
Some students said they would be disappointed if the annual show were to end after this year.
“I would be very upset if it were cancelled,” Meg Sullivan ’08 said. “There are parties every night, but there is only one fire show a year.”
The fire show will take place this Monday night, Jordan said, and members will perform fire tricks while acting out a story about Puritans tempted by witchcraft.
Jordan said the society hopes to perform other fire shows during this school year and expects to receive approval for shows on a case-by-case basis.