Brand Spanking New Theatre Facility

mbepting

Member
Hi all I am new to this forum but I hope to get a nice new thread going here. I am the TD at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. We are currently a very small, under equipped theatre but that is all about to change. We have recently been the recipients of a wonderful gift from the Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson of a new Center for the Arts. We are all very excited. The plan is to move into the space by the fall semester of 2017. We are in the very preliminary stages of design right now and I have been spending quite a bit of time brainstorming about everything that I would love to have in this new space. As of now the space will consist of a 300 seat modified thrust and a 2500 sqft black box. The question I pose to everyone is this. What would you like to put in your new "dream" theatre space? Suspension grid? Light board? Sound board? Dimmers? Cool new shop stuff. Theatre architecture. Anything. Everything.
 

Ric

Active Member
Rehearsal Space and more storage....
This, always...
Plan for rooms that have no defined purpose now, and keep them empty all through the design process. One day, probably the day after you open, you'll want the space.
 

Les

Well-Known Member
I wouldn't get too far in to equipment yet - especially lighting/sound consoles. Since this is still a few years away, the best consoles now might be updated by the time you start spec'ing equipment. I would plan for a lot of LED's, data, etc. Just don't get too attached to a particular console just yet.

Also, plan your route from the scene shop to the stage area - both in directness but also in height. Have your roll-up doors as high as possible to accommodate scenery larger than what you think you will need.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
You should define what you want to do. Types of shows and scale of scenery. Much more constructive approach than how big of door.

Minor note, be sure you can't find storage off site. A couple thousand sq ft of storage is a lighting system or two.
 

mbepting

Member
We have theatre consultants on board now, thank god. I am a little concerned about storage space after seeing the preliminary designs. I'm afraid that they are going to design the building to just barely be big enough to hold what the two departments need now and not enough to grow into. As of now we have a decent looking rehearsal space. That is a big priority of ours. Large roll up doors are definatly a must have. Thanks for the input everyone.
 

om4eccv

Member
Conduit. Spare conduit between SL and SR, between both sides of stage and your booth. Booth to backstage. Booth to lobby.
Network and dry CAT5e drops everywhere.

We opened our own space in 2010, and (thankfully) had plenty of spare conduit in place. We've still had to add a bunch of surface-mount conduit backstage, but nothing that's visible to the public.

We had a portable PA system we'd setup in the space. Finally did a permanent install a couple years ago - that's what most of the conduit was dedicated for. Since then, we've added guest/touring inputs on the floor below the booth, audio to/from the lobby, a video feed to the house manager and lobby, and an audio feed back to our rehearsal spaces, which get used as green rooms during large productions.
 

Brandofhawk

Active Member
I've been working in three/four new spaces... They all have issues which I will say now. For every issue there IS something nice about the space.

Two spaces do NOT have bathrooms on the same floor as the stage level, nor do they have a place for a crew room to go to before or after your call / during breaks / etc. Depending on the use of your theatre, this may not be needed. But, if you aren't allowing your crew to go into the green room when there is someone renting the space, they will need somewhere to go on their 15 minute breaks.

A clear path from the tech booth to backstage. One of them you have to go down a flight of stairs, out the front of the building, back in through the lobby, then back up stairs. But imagine what someone has to do to get to the stage if something goes wrong. That space they don't hire enough people for the shows because budget and trying to attract new people to the space. If someone was hired to be backstage it would be okay because that person can deal with things.

Upstage, reserve line sets for electrics, know that they will need enough clearance. Don't skimp on linesets upstage if you can help it. A space i'm working in purchased 5 line sets upstage and dead hung 3 pipes for electrics. IT IS NOT ENOUGH. Unless you are willing to hire in a whole crew to work on electrics, you will only be causing continual pain if you dead hang an electric, largely because it will be too tall for a ladder and you will need to go up and down in the genie across the damn thing 10-11 times which sucks when you are alone.

I've used tension grids before and I loved them - I would put a tension grid over a thrust and a tension grid in the blackbox. That way you can add pipes where needed for lighting or hanging things down. I've been working in a thrust space that they put in 3 catwalks over the thrust and it just doesn't let you do everything you want. In that space, the directors love to have chandeliers hanging down, they love to drop leaves and snow and etc. I would tension the whole thing if possible, if not a catwalk for the "front" light, and a tension over the stage area + 5'.

With a thrust, you'll want at least two vom entrances that you can get to from backstage and from each other. A trap room would also probably be nice. Steps on each side of the thrust, plus you'll want to purchase the staging option of making it so they can extend to completely flat.

Make sure there is enough power in your space and plan for _expansion_ Try and guess where you MAY need to go for future needs. There has only been ONE space that I have ever said "there is enough power and lights here." They have been around for 20 years, have electrics 1 - 6, with an A electric for each. Two sets of cyc bays, tons of strip lights, and about twice the inventory of their rep plot. The last show I worked there, we hung "all" of the lights in the theatre, had power to spare in most places. Pulled power for others - but in the end, if the designer said "hrm, I think I'll need a light right there" we could still find one to hang for him.

A couple of spaces have nice large, easy to access from the stage, lighting and sound storage closets.

Someone else mentioned lots of rooms for things you don't know you will need - there will be TONS of gear you will acquire over time. Eventually, you will not know where to shove all these marbles in your 300 seat bag. This can include but not limited to 3 grand pianos, two marley carts, music stands, clip lights, strip lights, a ground row, various orchestra drums, stages, wood rack, pipe rack, sets of legs, full curtains, various drops, and a whole bunch of other things.


OF COURSE this advice is all depending on what kind of space you are setting up. This is mostly my experience from semi-educational spaces where they are also trying to rent out the space so need to keep a lot of this gear on hand all the time. But I agree with what others have said, seek out consultants. Push the issues you think you will have. Try and visit some of the bigger theatres in the area and talk to them about what they like and what they don't like, theatre people do enjoy talking about their spaces and this can get your foot in their doors to borrow things if you ever need to for that one gig.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Too bad no one is concerned about performer/audience relationships, intimacy, or how well the space supports the performers. But at least there will be lots of storage.
 

venuetech

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
having two spaces is a great thing but you do need to make sure that both spaces can easily access the support spaces that they need. for example my space has a smaller secondary stage but that stage has no direct access to dressing rooms and very little storage (sorry Bill, but it is very intimate ) without going through the main house. Many times it is not practical to have both venues active.
 

techieman33

Well-Known Member
Too bad no one is concerned about performer/audience relationships, intimacy, or how well the space supports the performers. But at least there will be lots of storage.

We all have our priorities. This is a technical forum, so while the things you've just mentioned are important they are secondary in the minds of most of us. The things that stand out are the things that we see everyday. Weather we love them or hate them that's things like doors, storage spaces, access routes, power, etc. I'm sure if this question was asked on a forum for actors, or directors you would get responses about intimacy, and dressing room needs. Not one of them would mention storage spaces, or big doors though. That's why we have theater consultants, to look at the big picture and to try and make the space fit everyone's needs as best as possible.
 
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Les

Well-Known Member
Too bad no one is concerned about performer/audience relationships, intimacy, or how well the space supports the performers. But at least there will be lots of storage.

We are giving "pearls of wisdom", not designing the space. Sadly, storage space is at the top of the list of problems for many of us. I've never heard a technician complain about how well the space supports the performers. This is (hopefully) a moot point since the OP has consultants on board. I'm sure doors and storage areas will be considered by the pros who are on the project.
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
I worked on a new black box a few years back. We ended up way over budget and so we were forced to cut all of the equipment that didn't need to be installed as part of a system. So I got dimmer racks, a light board, architectural lighting and controller, amplifiers, soundboard, and main speakers. But not a single stage light, microphone, or even a chair. Then I did all of the purchasing of the equipment myself. It was the best thing that ever happened for that theater. We easily saved over a half million bucks by avoiding contractor markups and I got 2 or 3 times as much gear. I had an army of students helping me open boxes, assemble lights, install chairs, you name it. Basic labor in a college is free use that to your advantage. Once you get the theater all designed, go through the systems with your consultants and break out everything you can install yourself before sending building off to bid. You will save a ton of money.
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
Fight Leukemia
We are giving "pearls of wisdom", not designing the space. Sadly, storage space is at the top of the list of problems for many of us. I've never heard a technician complain about how well the space supports the performers. This is (hopefully) a moot point since the OP has consultants on board. I'm sure doors and storage areas will be considered by the pros who are on the project.
That being said, even with consultants my space ended up with a doorway too narrow for the grand piano to fit through in between the PAC and the Choir room..... They were VERY specific when listing this as a need. Now it takes two custodians about an hour to pop the fire door off its hinges for every choir concert. We also have no place to store the chair racks, choir risers, and choral shell, so every show these things need to be shuffled around. Quite often it means that during the run of the show we spend our first half hour every day clearing the stage of the crap we have to store there so that we have wing space for set pieces. Also DIM-ABLE LIGHTS IN THE BOOTH!!! The last new building I worked in couldn't dim the booth lights at all. My current space installed 'Dim-able' Halogen lights with some funky base. They don't dim lower than 50% and I can't find an incandescent replacement!!! Completely useless during a show.

To piggy back on Brandofthehawk's post. I didn't realize how important access from the booth to back stage is until I lost it. In my current space, It is a 100M dash around the school hallways for me to get there without going through the house.

Whomever designed my space also forgot to add side pockets for lighting, and proceeded to hang a row of speakers and house lights between our FOH catwalk and the stage which we have to light around. The catwalk itself it about 15 feet too far from the stage as well. They had the foresight to give me dim-able circuits above my booth for additional front light, but didn't bother to install anything to attach fixtures to.

And now for something I never thought of until it happened. When laying your stage floor, make sure you have a clear center line. The natural center line in our flooring is about 1.5 feet off of center. It really throws off blocking and adds several steps of measuring to make sure the set is centered.

All that said, I love my space and I love working here and discovering the little quirks and oversights but a lot of frustration could have been avoided if someone in my district would have been asking these questions.

BTW, if your getting an orchestra pit, I have another small rant to go on.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Please, Ed, tell us who "consultants" were?

Your issues are all valid and all things I try to get done right. That said, some things won't get done right and won't get fixed. The flooring layout for centerline - and our floor drawing also requires a logical plaster line - is a hard one. Just came from a project where it was some odd 15-16" off. All agreed it was correctly documented, communicated, and there was no excuse. The Owner was not willing to delay opening - since the stage floor is usually one of the very last things to be done - so there it is.
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
Fight Leukemia
Due to some odd circumstances, they were not able to go with the people that do the majority of this type of work in our area. I don't know who they went with. I will see what I can find out.
 

TDN

Member
A lot of these answers have been for really just dealing with theatre, but it sounds like you have a full performing arts center in the works. You want to figure out flow for those events. Our arts center uses the scene shop as the main point of access from all the classrooms and rehearsal spaces to the stage, which means that for any production, work in the shop has to be planned out to have clear method of travel, scenery complete enough to move out of the way, floors extra swept, etc. The scene shop also becomes a holding pen during choir concerts, etc. It's not the greatest.

Try to make sure the orchestra room or storage is on the same floor and close by the theatre. You'll be rolling lots of tympani, pianos, etc back and forth.
 

mbepting

Member
These are all great concerns. I am pushing hard for a back hallway behind the black box with a rollup door and access to dressing rooms. I also think that it is important to design the space with the actors in mind. I know this is a "technical" forum but we are building a theatre and actors do a lot of work in the theatre so it is very important to consider their needs when designing the space. It only seems logical to me.

I am also hoping that I can get them to put the black box and main stage on opposite sides of my scene shop with rollup doors to both spaces. Then I could just roll scenery across a hall and into my spaces. We shall see. I am still waiting for the first set of drawings since the consultants have been on board.
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Yeah as designs are coming through the most important thing you can do is to imagine you are doing all the different types of events in the building, in your case more than one at the same time. How are you going to handle things when crew needs to get rapidly from one space to another? Where are people in costume going to travel? How are you going to deal with large set pieces? Can you build in the shop while there is a class in the black box?

Go through every event you have done in the last year and imagine how it would work in the blueprints. This is how you discover the need for extra doors. In my case I fought a long time to get a door between the green room and costume shop. In the end I was proven right that it would be a critical access on a daily basis, but the architects had no idea how important it would be.
 

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