Sets, Scenery and Rigging
Creative Conners’ Rhody box
Creative Conners’ Rhody box (right) backstage at Theatre Under the Stars’ 2015 production of A Christmas Carol.

Thinking about trying out automation or specialized rigging at your venue? Here’s how to cut down on unknown unknowns. 

With advances in manufacturing and control, rigging special effects—including an automation system of your very own—is in reach for a lot more theatres, whether they’re renting or owning. After you’ve checked off the basics in your prep, make sure you’ve covered these hotspots. 

Read more: More Than Specs

Sets, Scenery and Rigging
J.R. Clancy recently finished a project at Central Wesleyan church in Holland, Mich. that included a traveling gantry hoist lifting an LED panel as well as lighting hoists and a lighting package.
J.R. Clancy recently finished a project at central Wesleyan church in Holland, Mich. that included a traveling gantry hoist lifting an LED panel as well as lighting hoists and a lighting package.

A primer on how theatres can prepare for a rigging upgrade and communicate with their contractors while it happens 

Rigging is the backbone of a theatre, and what it can and can’t do defines what the stage is capable of. Yet in speaking to those who make their living at it, too often it’s shrouded in mystery, something that is more than just literally over one’s head. So for the theatre who has a new or improved rigging system in their immediate future (or dreaming of one), SD has assembled a round table of experts to weigh in on the process and the execution of getting your rigging right. 

Read more: Upgrading or Replacing Rigging in Theatres

Sets, Scenery and Rigging
Gears, gears, gears
Info on spot hoists coming down

Info on spot hoists for theatres looking to add automation

Are you ready to dive into stage automation? Champing at the bit to wow your audiences with what you can do? Well, you’re going to need some winches. We’ve reached out to the leaders in scenic technology for theatres and gathered the base info for their spot hoists. These specialized hoists are perfect for integrating with your current rig and handing your special scenic needs. While we’ve endeavored to gather the most critical information for your comparisons, these listings can’t show everything these hoists can do. Be sure and reach out to the manufacturers to see what other options might be available, and what rental options exist so you can bring some automation to your next show!

Read more: Buyer’s Guide to Spot Hoists

Feature
Mimi Lien’s set design for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet Of 1812 reworked the stage and audience chamber to immerse the audience in the performance.
Mimi Lien’s set design for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet Of 1812 reworked the stage and audience chamber to immerse the audience in the performance.

Mimi Lien’s scenic design for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 relies on a lot of one thing to create many unique experiences

Immersive performances are seducing American theatregoers lately, and the recent musical production of Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. has taken it to large scale effect. The Loeb Drama Center at the ART was transformed into an aristocratic and decadent Russian nightclub setting (circa the early 19th Century) featuring a multilevel, red-drenched stage with a curved, asymmetrical layout that scenic designer Mimi Lien likened to the inside of a Fabergé egg. “I feel that what we wanted to create was actually this emotional or psychological sense of Russia as opposed to a research-based idea of Russia,” says Lien, who conducted an interview for Stage Directions with director Rachel Chavkin prior to the show’s early December opening.

Read more: Inside the Egg

Feature
All Girl Frankenstein and its stainless steel embalming table at the Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville, FL.
All Girl Frankenstein and its stainless steel embalming table at the Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville, FL.

Increasing your conversations is a great way to decrease your props cost

You finish your first design meeting and realize you need to buy $10,000 worth of props on a $1,000 budget. How do you do it? How do you fill a stage when the money won’t even fill a small dorm room? Other theatres must have bigger props budgets, right? Not really. Props people are masters of stretching a budget. Here are some of the creative ways they use to get the goods.

Read more: Creating Relationships to Create Props

Gear Review
Yamaha TF3 console
The Yamaha TF3 digital audio console

Reviewing the TF3 digital audio console from Yamaha

The Yamaha TF series is a digital mixing console aimed at educational institutions, smaller theatres and other semi-pro institutions. It is designed to be easy for novices to get up to digital speed but also have a lot of depth for those who are experienced with digital consoles. The three models differ only in inputs and physical faders. The TF1 has 16 pre-amps and faders, with a maximum channel count of 40. The TF3 has 24 pre-amps and 48 channels as the maximum count. The TF 5 adds eight more of pre-amps to get up to 32. I reviewed the TF3, using it on a production of Rent at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts.

Read more: Small, Surprising and Solid

Answer Box

the stars, the stars
A star drop in use for All’s Well That Ends Well at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg, Va.

Creating all the stars in the sky doesn’t take LEDs or fiber-optics

If you produce enough theatre, sooner or later you’re going to want to use a star drop, and you’ll soon discover that buying or renting a fiber optic one is very costly and that building your own fiber optic drop is very time and labor intensive and also not inexpensive. A popular alternative is to hang multiple strands of white Christmas tree lights vertically behind a black scrim and in front of a black velour drape. The downfall with this technique is that the individual lights hang too regularly. Also, the wires themselves can reflect a bit of light and degrade the overall effect, and the brightness of the individual lights tends to have a boring sameness. But there’s a simple way to create an effective backdrop with very little expense (or labor). It just takes a little more space. 

Read more: Bouncing into the Night

Off the Shelf

Reviewing The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp

The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp aims to teach artists financial independence.
The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp aims to teach artists financial independence.

David Maurice Sharp parlayed a temp job for a Wall Street firm into a more-than-decade long career in finance which he maintained while still actively performing.

And so he decided to share his new wealth of knowledge with other artists, first in an investment group, then in classes and workshops and now in his book The Thriving Artist, which aims to be a guide to “saving and investing for performers, artists, and the Stage & Film industries.” Obviously, I didn’t have time to test all of his methods and watch my money grow BUT I found his approach to be straight-forward, accessible and, surprisingly, fun to read. He also made financial independence seem achievable, instead of buying into the “artists must starve for their art” mentality, which was very refreshing.

Read more: Guiding Artists to Saving and Investing

Company 411
Richard Parks and Jennifer Tankleff
Richard Parks and Jennifer Tankleff

iWeiss has a long history and a bright future

iWeiss has a long history—going back to the1900s—as a purveyor of quality curtains, drapery and theatrical rigging supplies, but it’s the future that’s most interesting to the husband and wife team of Richard Parks and Jennifer Tankleff who run it today. This spring they’re launching their own counterweight rigging equipment line, so in addition to manufacturing curtains they’ll be able to offer sheaves, arbors, various hoists and the rest of a rigging system, giving theatres the option of contracting with one company for 100% of their rigging needs, no matter what they are. 

Read more: Doing It All

Editor's Note

14/48 uses reality TV tropes, but reverses its super-objective

1448 Curtain Calle
The curtain call for the Jan. 16, 2016 curtain call for 14/48

This past weekend I was lucky enough to spend two days in sunny (not true) Seattle participating in the world’s quickest theatre festival: 14/48. For those of you not familiar with the conceit (which I imagine is mostly everyone outside of Seattle), it works likes this: On Thursday night 26 actors, seven writers, seven directors plus a whole host of designers, artisans, musicians, caterers and other assorted volunteers (around 70 people, all total) get together in a theatre, and choose a theme (suggested by attendees) at random. The writers go write all night. The next morning they turn in their scripts, shows are cast at random, and actors and directors go off to rehearse while designers, costumers, props people and everyone else gets to work making the production happen. At 8 p.m. seven world premieres hit the stage—and then the process starts over. So after 48 hours you have 14 new plays, hence 14/48. 

Read more: Here’s Your Tim Gunn Moment

Subcategories

Reviews of new gear that have appeared in the pages of Stage Directions.

Education Sponsors

 

Industry gigs from BENjobs.com

Check out the newest jobs at BENjobs.com >>>