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Actor burned at Lyric Opera of Chicago dress rehearsal; father there

February 05, 2013|By Deborah Vankin
  • Actor Wesley Daniel's mask catches fire during a Lyric Opera of Chicago dress rehearsal for "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg."
Actor Wesley Daniel's mask catches fire during a Lyric Opera of Chicago… (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago…)

A performer with Lyric Opera of Chicago suffered serious burns Monday afternoon when his face went up in flames during a dress rehearsal of Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” at the Civic Opera House in Chicago.

Wesley Daniel, 24, is expected to be OK and should be released from the hospital this Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Daniel’s father, Clifton Truman Daniel, 55, was in the audience when the accident occurred.

“It’s horrifying,” he told the Tribune. “You don’t believe it. At first, everything’s fine. You’re proud of him. You’re amazed at what he’s learned to do, and suddenly he’s in trouble.”

The actor, who was hired to fill in when another actor was injured last week, was rehearsing his role as a fireball-spitting stilt walker wearing a devil-like mask. Both his mask and costume were flameproof, said a spokeswoman for the Lyric and the stunt itself had been approved by the fire department.

Still, it didn’t prevent Daniel’s mask from catching fire when, according observers, the actor spilled a bit of propellant on his upper body, then lit a torch. He staggered across the stage and fell off his stilts, witnesses said.

Stage hands in the wings immediately sprayed him with fire extinguishers and he was treated with compresses backstage.

Paramedics took Daniel to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious to critical condition. He had second-degree burns on his face as well as burns on his throat, according to fire officials.  He was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in critical condition when doctors realized he was having trouble breathing. 

Daniel’s father has since delivered good news: There was no damage to the actor’s lungs or airway. "Doctors likened them to a severe sunburn and he will heal,” he said of the burns. “He shouldn’t have any scarring.”

Clifton Truman Daniel added that former President Truman is his grandfather. His son, Wesley Daniel, who graduated from Roosevelt University and has been acting for about three years, is the president's great-grandson.

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