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Actor sues over broken leg

PITTSBURGH, May 16 -- Testimony was scheduled to resume Wednesday in the Pittsburgh trial of actor Jon Cypher, who filed a negligence suit after breaking his right leg when he fell during a dress rehearsal for the play 'Oliver.' Cypher, who appeared in the television series 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Major Dad,' says his injuries have interfered with his acting career. A Broadway production stage manager told a jury Monday 'inherently dangerous' conditions on a set at the Benedum Center led to a 1992 accident in which Cypher broke his leg. Peter Lawrence, who is working on the Broadway show 'Sunset Boulevard,' testified as an expert witness in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Cypher, who, after the accident, played the part of Fagin in a wheelchair for nine performances of the Civic Light Opera production. Cypher, 63, of Ventura, Calif., sued the Benedum Center and Civic Light Opera for negligence after he broke his right leg in two places and damaged cartilage and ligaments in the July 20, 1992, accident. Lawrence was called by Cypher's attorney, G.N. Evashavik, to talk about safety standards in the industry. Lawrence said it is standard in the theater for actors to have a technical rehearsal using full lighting and no costumes to familiarize themselves with the set before presenting the show to an audience at a dress rehearsal. 'I have never done a show that didn't have a technical rehearsal,' Lawrence said. Lawrence said Cypher was making his first apperance in 'Oliver' dressed in costume and performing before an audience when he fell as he was leaving the revolving stage.

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He had crossed a bridge when he tumbled into an opening in the darkness. Lawrence said there should have been lights and a railing on the set. 'You can just imagine being on a carousel in the darkness for the first time,' Lawrence said. Defense attorney Steve Houghton declined to comment. No testimony was scheduled Tuesday because it is primary election day in Pennsylvania.

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