It is a well-known fact that most Yalies are hot. The Yale Anti-Gravity Society’s Halloween Fire Show makes it clear, though, that some of us are simply on fire.
This year, no one will be able to find out if Yalies really are sexier while twirling blazing diabolos. The Fire Show, a Halloween tradition that typically attracts an audience of about 500 Elis eager to see stunts such as fire breathing and juggling burning torches, has been cancelled due to safety and liability concerns. While attempts to lobby for this fall’s show have been abandoned, the ever-optimistic club members will work closely with the office of the Fire Marshal in hopes of ensuring the return of the holiday flame next autumn.
Maureen Lloyd ’08, the YAGS’s Minister of Propaganda (a.k.a. president), Evan Orenstein ’08, Minister of Fresh Blood (recruiter) and Adrian Ryan ’09, Minister of Fire and Brimstone (fire coordinator) took some time away from their beloved devil sticks, pois and clubs to speak with scene and reflect on their recent meeting with the Fire Marshal.
“The two main issues we discussed were safety and liability,” Orenstein explained. “Their major fear is that one of us is going to get injured and the University will be liable for that.”
Worried that the University’s motives might be misinterpreted, Lloyd was quick to point out that student safety, rather than insurance-related complications, is the primary concern.
“It’s not just that the college will be liable, it’s more that someone might get hurt,” she clarified.
One question that has plagued the YAGS team is, why now? The show hasn’t fundamentally changed since its creation in the late ’80s, yet the Fire Marshal’s office has held off on taking action to prevent the show.
Lloyd pointed out that the “show hasn’t gotten more dangerous. The environment has gotten more litigious, as the Fire Marshal said.”
Orenstein, temporarily distracted by a club member’s success in performing a complicated trick, interrupted his enthusiastic “Way to go!” to elaborate on the delicate situation.
“In the past there have been fire accidents in other places,” he said. “For example, there was a fire in a Rhode Island club. Those are completely unrelated to what we do, but they create sensitivity to fire shows in general.”
The club members, while teasing each other (“Really? You’ve gone without poi for three weeks?” Lloyd says to Ryan), remain serious about respecting the concerns of the Fire Marshal’s office and making sure both sides are satisfied. Orenstein expressed their willingness to collaborate with officials in order to reach an agreement and meet the requirements for a safe show.
“We are hoping to improve the communication between our office and theirs,” he said. “We will work with them to develop safety precautions and waivers that will make them comfortable with liability issues.”
So despite the recent cold shower, YAGS’s optimism is still aflame. Orenstein said they have hope for the show’s triumphant return next year, and Lloyd was quick to second that — while she skillfully balanced a rotating lunch tray on her index finger.
But this proverbial and literal light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean that the cancellation won’t have any negative effect on the club dynamics.
“If we don’t get to do a show next year, Adrian will be the only one left with any fire experience,” Orenstein said with apprehension.
While keeping a respectable number of clubs circulating in the air, Ryan acknowledged the difficulty of introducing new members to the art of fire by himself.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue this on my own,” he admitted.
This year’s recruits will also miss a chance to realize their full juggling potential. And their gravity-defying savvy, according to Orenstein, is just waiting to be tapped.
“In terms of talent, this is the best year we’ve had in 10 years,” he bragged.
Since there will be no shows this semester, this talent is going to remain dormant. Instead, YAGS is focusing their energy on the non-fiery spring show, which is an original play accompanied by juggling. When asked for a personal favorite, the members nominated “Hamlet Never Dies.”
However, according to experienced upperclassmen, the spring performance will not make up for the absence of that extra spark this Halloween.
“Halloween, YSO and the Fire Show all go together at Yale,“ Crystal Castaneda ’08 said. “You can’t just cancel one of them.”
Some also expressed doubt about the motivation behind the ban on the show.
“The cancellation is only the attempt of the fire department to not have to send a supervisor,” George London ’08 asserted. “It’s a travesty that bureaucratic laziness could prevent freshmen from enjoying such a wonderful Yale experience.”
The Fire Marshall could not be reached for comment.
Some members of the fire show-virgin Class of 2010 weren’t happy with the news, either. Those who had heard of the show felt robbed. Volkan Doda ’10 summed up the general response.
“It would be fun to watch the show,” he said. “It’s a pity that we cannot do it this year.”
This sentiment isn’t universal as many Yalies said they are apathetic about the show’s fate. And considering the variety of social events that take place on Halloween, one sophomore said the absence of this particular one won’t make such a great difference.
“It was a cool show, but my evening won’t be any worse without it,” Reece Flexner ’09 said. “It’s so crowded anyway, and if you’re in the back you can only see so much.”
Students may disagree about the impact of the cancellation, but there’s one thing that everyone agrees on: The show is distinctly characteristic of the — dare we say — fiery Yale spirit.
As Aurora Nichols ’06 put it, “It is really a unique feature of Yale’s culture that our school is cool enough to let us watch other people play with fire for fun.”