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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

02 Jun

Dennis Anyone? Circle of Safety

Category: Article   Posted by: C. DENNIS SCHICK

 DENNIS ANYONE? What’s your “Circle of Safety?”


Several years ago a telephone service van pulled up in front of my house while I was working in the yard. I walked over to talk with the driver to see why he was there, and to engage him in conversation.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said, “but I have to do my Circle of Safety before I can talk with you.” Now I had TWO questions for him. He went to the back of his van, opened the doors, took out four of those orange highway cones and put one at each of the four corners of the van. He then looked up and down the street, and then in all directions, apparently getting the lay of the land. Only then did he resume talking with me.

It seems that as part of his training as a service provider, all drivers are required to do a walk-around as soon as they arrive and just before they leave a customer’s property. This is for the driver’s own personal safety, but also for the safety of the van, the other company property, and even the customer’s property. Good idea, I thought at the time.

Over the years I have used that “Circle of Safety” concept in several aspects of my life -- habits to prevent something bad happening. For instance, when I take out my wallet and take from it a credit card, I continue to hold the wallet in my hand until I get my card back. That prevents me from walking off without my card, and having to go back later to retrieve it (once, completely across Washington, D.C.). Another example is walking around my own car before backing out, to make sure there are no lawn tools, flower pots, or even children, in my path. A third example is always putting things (tools, scissors, yardstick, etc.) back in the same place, so they will be there the next time I want them.

Several columnists in The Linking Ring over the years have advised using a checklist in packing up a show, in unpacking at the performance site, for the actual script and performance itself, and in repacking at the end of the show. This is your own Performing Circle of Safety. But you should have other Circles of Safety, too.

How about a Props and Apparatus Circle of Safety?  That’s your practice of making sure all of them are in good working order, are paint-fresh, do not have any worn, chipped, or thread-bare places, etc. It also means you should not “assume” that every prop works; try it out every time, especially if you haven’t used it in some time.

How about your own Vehicle Circle of Safety? Just like the utility service van, you should do the walk-around check, too. But how about regular maintenance, including oil changes and tire rotations? And how about making sure the gas tank is full before you start out? (That gas station along the way may be closed, out of gas, out of business, etc.)

Then you should have a Toolkit Circle of Safety. What did you run out of at your last gig which needs replacing? What did you wish you had last time but didn’t have that you should add now? If you don’t remember -- because you didn’t write it down -- go to the Dollar Store or the hardware store and walk up and down every aisle to jog your memory, and see other things you may need. Buy a tool box or a fishing box for all those repair and emergency items (tools, tacks, electrical tape, duct tape, paper clips, cellophane tape, scissors, etc.). Recently I noticed a performer who brought his own fire extinguisher, and set it out near his prop table. “Better safe than sorry,” was his explanation after his show.

And, of course, don’t forget your Venue Circle of Safety. A major reason to arrive at your venue early is to carefully examine the entire layout, from sightlines and lighting, to sound systems and acoustics. I have changed the chairs (with permission, from straight across to herringbone/angled); moved plants; pulled shades on glaring windows -- with distractions outside; and set up my own tables (on stage for props and in the hall for BOR (Back-of-Room) sales.

Yes, you probably already have some Circle of Safety habits and practices. But you might take some time to formalize these, including writing them down. And check your lists from time to time as changes happen (adding animals, adding fire, etc.). We could call this a “Circle of Safety for your Circles of Safety.”   


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