I just read about an opera house fire that happened 100 years ago. I’ve often wondered what would happen if a fire broke out while the Opera San José orchestra is in the pit. We’ve never discussed evacuation plans. We aren’t near any exits. I haven’t figured out what I’d do, other than try to grab instrument(s) and reeds. (Yeah, I really would grab ’em. If I had time!)

Safety is something I do sometimes wonder about when it comes to this job. We live in earthquake country. The pit is crowded and far from exits. We sometimes, for ballet and musical theatre, have fog or smoke drift down. For a good number of years the basemet at the Center for Performing Arts flooded when it rained, and we’d have to walk on rubber mats to get to the pit. There used to be (maybe still is?) asbestos in that building. What have we been breathing? And then there are reeds; are pesticides used on the cane when it is growing?

Ah well. Every job has its risks, right? And I am probably more likely to be hit by a car in front of my own house, I suppose.


  1. Jeannette Clemons

    So I googled California Theatre because I dont remember it…no wonder! It was still a ruin when I was there! (Whatever did happen to the Venue where the Ceiling fell in? Why doesnt the orchestra play there?or is that another can of worms?….)Anyway,those pits ARE kind of spooky in my experience but maybe no more frightening than that place with the movable ceiling…

  2. The place you are talking about, the CPA, or “Center for the Performing Arts”, is where we perform for ballet and musical theatre, and where San Jose Symphony was all the years I was in it. The ceiling that fell down was repaired (and no longer movable, as it had been at first). The CPA is a huge, awful barn of a place. I was glad to get into a prettier and better acoustical venue.

  3. Jeannette Clemons

    Yup it really was a BARN. Supposedly that is why the ceiling could move…so it could become more “intimate”. The photos of CT are marvelous and show it off well. The organ looks nice too..Was there an old Wurlitzer in the theatre?

  4. I’m fairly sure there was a Wurlitzer, but can’t say for sure.

    California is lovely. Acoustically there are issues, but that’s not uncommon.