New York, NY Dancer Catches Fire at American Theater Fire, May 1910


Nina Payne, who gives a performance called "La Danse de la Robe de Nuit" at the American Theatre on Forty-second Street, sent a thrill through the audience which wasn't on the programme last night, and demonstrated that she is quickwitted and cool-headed. While carrying a lighted candle in the middle cf the dance, she set fire to her hair, and the flame quickly-communicated to a thin silken robe she wore. Only prompt action by herself and her mother, who was standing in the wings, prevented both a fire and a panic. The production, termed a a "pantomimic comedy drama," is under the management of G. Molasso. It is called "La Sonambule" and calls for a cast of seven characters. Miss Payne, who takes the part of Mme. Martel, a somnambulist, dances in a single garment, a silken night robe.

The audience saw the accident first and several women screamed. The cry went through the house and a panic was imminent. Quickly realizing what had happened, Miss Payne smothered the blaze in her hair, but the flame had caught her flimsy robe and was spreading rapidly. Falling to the floor she rolled upon the blaze. Her mother ran to her daughter's' assistance, and the two quickly put out the fire. Mr. Molasso and a fireman, who were close by and had seen the whole affair, also rushed on the stage. Half of the audience by this time was standing up. Women were screaming while men were shouting to keep still. It was all over in a moment, and when Miss Payne arose and announced that the danger was over and that she was not injured, she was greeted with loud cheers and applause.

Then she resumed her dance and after another ovation, she said: "I am sorry I frightened you and hereafter I am not going to take any chances. I'll use an electric candle." Miss Payne's left arm was blistered from the shoulder to the elbow. Dr. Herman Reese of the Hotel Cadillac was called and dressed the wound. Manager Molasso said he did not think the accident would interfere with the performance to-day. Miss Payne is 19 years of age and this is her first appearance in New York.

May 5, 1910 edition of "The New York Times"