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Indiana Theater Catches Fire During Performance

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The audience evacuates the Star Plaza Theater after the curtain on the right side of the stage started on fire during a plate spinning performance of The New Shanghai circus at the Star Plaza Theater Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort - Sun-Times Media

The audience evacuates the Star Plaza Theater after the curtain on the right side of the stage started on fire during a plate spinning performance of The New Shanghai circus at the Star Plaza Theater Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort – Sun-Times Media

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UPDATED 02/10/11 1:44 p.m.

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CBS) – A dangerous curtain fire stopped a circus performance and terrified a crowd at the Star Plaza Theatre in Northwest Indiana Wednesday night.

The New Shanghai Circus Troupe, an act featuring acrobats, jugglers and contortionists, was performing in front of an estimated 1,000 people at the theater in Merrillville, Ind., Wednesday night, when a curtain caught fire.

Stagehands and other theater employees helped escort the patrons and the circus troupe safely from the theater.

Despite some panic among the audience, everyone got out safely and there were no injuries.

A member of the audience, Savoy Corona, shot cell phone video of the fire.

“Right when the curtain started to come down, people started to really panic, and it was pretty scary,” Corona told CBS 2. “My mom – she was worried because of all the smoke that was in the room. So it was pretty scary.”

A Star Plaza official said that the fire likely started when a hot light ignited the right side of the stage curtain around 8:10 p.m.

Security officer Tracy White said that another security officer used a fire extinguisher and Ross Township firefighters quickly arrived on scene.

“We do apologize about the inconvenience, but accidents happen,” White said. “We’re going to get through it and take care of everybody the best we possibly can. The main thing is no one got hurt.”

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Star Plaza said the fire was limited to the stage left curtain and did not spread further.

But the theater, adjacent to a Radisson Hotel at 8001 Delaware Pl. in Merrillville, sustained smoke and water damage.

Refunds for New Shanghai Circus tickets will be given through Feb. 26.

The damage, which Star Plaza describes as limited, is being dealt with on Thursday. “Riverdance” will appear at the theater on Friday night as scheduled, president and chief executive officer Charlie Blum said in a news release.

The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

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