Putting on a Stageplay or an Opera? Consider the Risks

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It can be an enriching experience for students to get involved in their campus theatre group, either by attending stageplays or even organizing their own performances. Players’ Theatre, for example, is a non-profit student theatre group at McGill that has hosted many entertaining shows over the years. However, when putting on a stageplay or other theatrical performance, it is easy to get caught up in the creativity and logistics of the event and thus neglect to consider the risks involved in such events.

In 2015, during a performance of Grumpy Old Women, the audience was evacuated due to a pyrotechnic mishap that occurred well before intermission. Frustrated theatregoers spilled out onto nearby Regent St. as firemen arrived at the scene. More than almost any other hazard, fire reveals just how important it is that a theatre carry good production liability insurance. Had the pyrotechnic mishap gotten out-of-control, the damage to property and, more importantly, people could have been immeasurable. An out-of-control fire is enough to draw the curtain on any business due to its potential to cause personal injury. Furthermore, one production’s damage to a theatre has implications for said theatre’s future productions and revenue streams, all of which need to be protected with the right insurance policy.

During a performance of Mamma Mia! in 2014, actress Kim Ismay (as “Tanya”) once swung a hair dryer straight into an audience member’s face. The hair dryer’s cable had snapped mid-song, sending the dryer flying into the crowd. The audience member was given champagne during the interval to apologize for the accident. A nice touch, certainly – but not likely to be adequate if the patron still decides to sue. Any decent theatre insurance policy would include commercial generality liability coverage to pay for the cost of a lawyer to defend you in such circumstances where a patron sues the production.

One production’s damage to a theatre has implications for said theatre’s future productions and revenue streams

Back in 1982, during a performance of the play Way Upstream – which is set on a cabin cruiser boat on an English river – the water tank simulating the river burst. This flooded the theatre. The theatre had built a 6K-gallon tank for the boat, but the tank eventually broke and deluged the stage and seating area nearby. The boat had been weighed down by a dozen people, half of them stage crew, at the time of the flood. This sort of situation potentially involves both property damage and bodily injury claims. With the right theatre insurance policy in place, the cost of these claims could be largely covered by the insurance.

Students might also occasionally use musical instruments while performing in these stageplays. If the student is performing in the play entirely on a volunteer basis, then it is possible that their musical instrument could be covered under their family’s homeowner’s insurance policy. However, once that student accepts any money for performing with that instrument – even just $10 – then that instrument will be considered commercial gear and will therefore no longer be covered under homeowner’s insurance. That is when they should look into getting a separate musical instrument insurance policy to cover theft, damage, fire and loss of use of that instrument. And if the student becomes a professional musician after finishing university, then they will definitely want to look into musical instrument insurance for this reason.

On the topic of musical instrument insurance, a common question tends to be, “how will these items be valued if I have a claim?” The instruments will be valued by replacement cost, agreed value or actual cash value; let’s explain each in turn. An instrument insurance policy normally provides coverage on a replacement cost basis. Replacement cost provides for the cost to repair or replace the damaged property without deduction for depreciation.

An insurer will normally pay the smallest of the following:

  • The amount you actually spend on repairing the damage.
  • The amount it would cost to replace the lost or damaged property at the time of loss with new property of similar kind and quality to be used for the same purpose.
  • The limit of coverage purchased for the property on your policy.
  • Payment for repair or replacement will not be paid until the property has actually been repaired or replaced.

If you have vintage or one-of-a-kind equipment, coverage can be provided on an agreed value instead, which would be the amount the item has been appraised for by a reputable appraisal company. A new appraisal would be required every five years.

If your instrument is five years old or older and you do not have an appraisal, your instruments will be valued at actual cash value. This is the amount equal to the replacement cost minus depreciation of damaged or stolen property at the time of the loss. This means that in the event of the loss, your settlement will be based on the smallest of the following amounts:

  • The actual cash value of the lost or damaged property at the time of loss.
  • The amount it would cost to repair or replace the property with similar kind or quality.
  • The limit of coverage that applies to the property.


This article has been published as part of a sponsorship agreement between the Bull & Bear and Front Row Insurance Brokers, Inc.

About: Front Row Insurance Brokers, Inc. is an entertainment insurance broker specializing in theatre companies, the film industry, the music industry and photographers with Canadian offices in Montreal (Globalex/Front Row Assurance), Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax. Front Row negotiates on your behalf to obtain great coverage at a low premium. Front Row is the top insurance choice in Canada for theatre producers. https://www.frontrowinsurance.com/

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