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An interesting set of rigging

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by JChenault, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    I was recently in Santa Clara Cuba and discovered an theatre built in 1885 that ( apparently ) still has the original rigging. Thought I should share photos with the group.

    The rigging was fascinating. Wire guide counterweight, no lock rail that I could see, a mix if single and double purchase and ( the strangest thing to me) the lift lines were hemp not wire.

    The tour guide said that the rigging was original to the construction ( I doubt this as my research shows the earliest system as 1888. The theatre was built in 1885)
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. JonCarter

    JonCarter Well-Known Member

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    The Jr.Hi in E. Cleveland, Ohio, that I attended in 1953-5 was built in the '30. The auditorium stage had a decent but unusual rigging system. The counterweight arbors were guided by solid steel wires running from eyebolts & turnbuckles on the floor to eye bolts on the bottom flange of one of the I-beams supporting the head blocks. The counterweight arbors were parallel to the side wall of the stage house, not the usual perpendicular. As a result the line sets were about 16" on center. All the line sets were hung from hemp ropes running from the counterweight arbors to the head blocks, loft blocks and battens. I was surprised that this stage had no asbestos nor deluge system. I measured the height of the stage house with the assistance of a couple others on our crew (that's another story) and determined that it wa 49'6" from floor to ceiling. Guess it didn't need either.
     
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  3. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    The 50' rule was introduced in the 1990s. Before that from the 1960s it was the lable game if platform stage versus legitimate stage. I believe prior to that the term was full working stage, which most high schools were not. Lot of older high schools over 50' that never had a fire safety curtain.

    I don't believe the rigging in the op's photos could have been from 1885. Calling Rick Boychuk.
     
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  4. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    He hasn't posted since February, and I don't know if he will get an alert with just a mention of his name, but perhaps @RickBoychuk will.

    EDIT: How bizarre, his name doesn't pop up when you use the [Find Member] box.
     
  5. RickBoychuk

    RickBoychuk Member

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    Interesting doesn't begin to describe this installation. No. I do not believe that this is a 1885 installation in Cuba. The first documented installation of counterweight was, in fact, 1888 in Vienna. Other things tell of a later date, as well. Plate iron side plates. Channel arbor tops and bottoms. But, ... rope lift lines. I have never seen or tell of that in a system. Are humidity levels constant in Cuba? Or are the lift lines adjustable? The DP counterweight system in the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (1967) has adjustable operating lines. The adjustment is made at the head block. But, look at the operating lines here. they are tied off to the top of the arbor. They do not go around the arbor sheave and back to the head block. This is a hybrid system; the lift lines are double purchase, but the operating line is single purchase. This is really timely. The new counterweight system in the National Theatre in DC is also a hybrid system. These are the only two that I have seen. A third is documented in Sachs' Modern Opera Houses and Theatres, and was supposedly installed in the New English Opera House for Gilbert and Sullivan (1891). I would guess that this counterweight system in Cuba was installed in the 1920's. The National Theatre counterweight system in Havana was installed by Peter Clark Company out of NYC in 1914. It could have been inspiration for this. And, like the National Theatre in DC, the Santa Clara theatre would have been a hemp house with elevated fly floor reconfigured to counterweight. And, like DC, the counterweight arbors are onstage of the operator. Also similar to the Scottish Rites. I will spend more time with the images. Do you have any more?
     
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  6. RickBoychuk

    RickBoychuk Member

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    And an interesting point; the operating line is onstage of the arbor - inaccessible to the operator. He must use the line attached to the arbor on the arbor side. It must be very awkward to operate. Sure would be nice to see images of the head and loft blocks.
     
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  7. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    Rick

    I do have more images, and images of finer resolution ( I had to reduce the image size to load on control booth). Would you like me to send the full file to you, or just load what I can to control booth?
     
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  8. RickBoychuk

    RickBoychuk Member

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    I'd love to get full res files. [email protected]. direct. or Dropbox. or, if you are Mac based, iCloud photo sharing. Or any other method. Thanks.
     
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  9. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    There appears to be a gallery on the on stage side high, which could be only a loading bridge, but I can't tell. I didn't see any signs of rope locks (though I could imagine these running so rough no rope lock would be needed - they'd just stay where they stopped) but maybe somewhere else.

    Could the single purchase hand lines and double purchase hand lines be for other then light weight loads - drops and such? That mechanical disadvantage would be tough for something heavy - though quite quick.
     
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  10. Ted jones

    Ted jones Member

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    I agree with Rick, 1900 to 1920's for installation. The C-channel tells you a lot.

    I have seen the opposite of this system where the control line was compounded and the running lines are not. We installed a system like that at York HS in Elmhurst, IL. It may have been removed. Max Roller pushed this idea regularly for heavy sets. We have offered it a few times, but no one has wanted to pay for it.

    Rick, we have installed a few see through counterweight systems. I think they are a good way to do it. No twisted spines for the operators.

    Ted
     
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  11. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps they saved money on the retrofit by keeping the hemp lift lines (and loft blocks) from the original system, just replacing the sandbags with arbors.
     
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  12. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Alright if you can afford: to build the stage 4' or so wider to accommodate for scenery and performers to run off; deeper stage or another door to get to behind rail (I rarely have enough space in a rail for passage) ; and the structure to support the T (just say no to wire guide). And its getting to be that if you can afford all that you can motorize, which certainly saves twisting.

    Very plausible. Also easier to tie a clove hitch in hemp than wire rope. :)
     

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