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Monica Lijewski remains hospitalized after fall from Olney stages

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Monica Lijewski, the actress who fell into the orchestra pit from “The Sound of Music” stage Nov. 9 during rehearsals at Olney Theatre Center, remains hospitalized with severe spinal injuries to her neck.

Lijewski is largely paralyzed from the waist down, according to her daughter, Sarah Rizor, and is on a ventilator. On Thursday, Rizor said doctors haven’t said when her mother might be released, but because of the nature of neck and spinal injuries, “it could be a last-minute discharge.”

Lijewski fell about eight feet — from steps near the front of the stage and into the empty orchestra pit. A rescue squad was called immediately, and Lijewski was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she remains.

Lijewski had been cast as the Mother Abbess, the character who sings “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” She has been replaced by another cast member, Channez McQuay.

“It was just a freak accident,” McQuay said. The cast was reassembling after a dinner break when Lijewski fell.

When “The Sound of Music” opened on Nov. 19, a raised lip had been attached to the edge of the stage and a net was stretched over the orchestra pit. The week of Thanksgiving, the Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund inspected and approved the safety measures.

The national office of Actors’ Equity confirms that the accident was reported promptly, which triggers insurance processes. Rizor, 22, said that her mother’s health care is being covered under workers’ compensation. A trust to help with immediate bills has been established on a Facebook page (“Friends of Monica Lijewski”). Friends who visited Lijewski in the hospital posted that she was beginning to eat “semi-solid” foods.

Lijewski, 48, last appeared with the Olney as the housekeeper in Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” this fall. Most of the Northern Virginia resident’s roles have been in musicals, from the concert version of “Bells Are Ringing” at the Kennedy Center in 1998 to “Menopause, the Musical” at the Bethesda Theatre in 2009.

Pressley is a freelance writer.

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