By Kristin Arzt

Soon after Susan Mernit took over as Executive Director of The Crucible, she began engaging in one-on-one and group conversations with faculty, staff, students, board members, and community members about how The Crucible should celebrate its 20 years of history as a fine and industrial arts school.

“Very quickly, I was struck by how the longtime Crucible community understood and embraced fire as a critical part of The Crucible’s identity,” explains Mernit. With a long history of holding Fire Arts Festivals, Fire Operas, and Fire Ballets, doing more with fire performance, fire arts, and fire effects felt essential to the core identity of The Crucible.

“But, at its core The Crucible is a school. So we wanted to take this historical knowledge that Crucible community members have amassed around fire performance and the fabrication of safe and awe-inspiring fire effects, and make it not just a spectacle, but something anyone could come and learn to do,” explains Mernit. “And that’s the Fire Series.”

The Fire Series begins with a survey of how to safely prevent and suppress uncontained fires. Once students master Fire Safety, they have the option to dive deeper into Fire Effects or Fire Performance, where hands-on coursework includes the design and fabrication of effective and beautiful flame effect sculptures and training in a variety of fire performance forms including fire hoop, poi, and staff.

But for many, time in the classroom isn’t enough. “The majority of students can’t set off a fire cannon in their backyard,” laughs Mernit. In Fire Lab, students who have completed at least three courses in the Fire & Performance Department can come work on their own projects under the supervision and mentorship of an instructor. This is an opportunity for fire effects artists and fire performers to devise, build, and execute original fire performance and/or fire effects pieces, and meet others in the Bay Area who are also interested in the fire arts.

The most committed of artists will be invited to participate in The Crucible’s Fire Studio, where their fire effects pieces and performances will be shown in front of a live audience at Crucible events. We are so excited to see what you all create!

The Fire Series would not be possible without support from a generous donor.

Step 1: Start Here

Fire Safety

Learn to understand what exactly fire is, techniques to prevent uncontained fires, and how to suppress a variety of fire effects. Walk away with a scientific understanding of the sources of fire and its reactions, as well as hands-on experience putting out fire effects under the expert guidance of Christopher T. Palmer. This is the first class in the six part Fire Series.

Step 2: Choose Your Own Adventure

After learning the basics of safely controlling fire, students have the option to deepen their knowledge of fire performance and/or fire effects.

Fire Performance

Learn the art of fire dancing using poi, staff, and hoop to increase strength and skill in choreography, movement, and tricks with music. Build up to spinning with fire through this course.


Fire Effects I

Learn to design and build safe, effective, beautiful flame effect sculptures with propane. You will learn many different ways of manipulating fire for use in sculpture, including accumulator poofer effects, propane and liquid fuel effects, igniters, and electronic controls.


Fire Effects II

In this intermediate course, make safe, effective, and beautiful propane and liquid fuel flame effects. You’ll design and build flame effects sculptures in class working with an instructor and a variety of materials. Build upon your fire effects skills to create unique, fiery projects. Students who build flame effect devices to take home may have additional expenses for materials.


Step 3: Come Play With Us!

After completing three courses in the Fire & Performance Department, students are invited to practice and develop their skills with support from an instructor in Fire Lab. Then with an invitation from the department, they can continue on to Fire Studio and show off their skills in front of a live audience!

Fire Lab

In this advanced course, devise, build, and execute original fire performance and/or fire effects pieces, under the supervision and mentorship of an instructor. Hone technique and ingenuity, develop professionalism in fire production, collaborate across departments, and demonstrate skills in a safe, supportive space. Utilize the experience and proficiency developed in previous courses of the Fire Series to bring the fire effects projects and fire performances of your dreams to life.

PREREQUISITE: Completed 3 courses in Fire & Performance.

Fire Studio

By invitation-only, this select group of individuals – having completed the Fire Series training levels – may be asked to exhibit original fire performances and/or fire effect pieces during The Crucible’s events. Mentorship and coaching will be made available in preparation for and adjudication of pieces prior to public showcase.


Inspiration: Fiery Art From The Crucible Community

See Upcoming Fire and Performance Classes: