Fly System Renovation

Andy Haefner

Active Member
Hello, in my high school our fly system is almost 60 years old, completely original to the school. Unfortunately with the recent renovation that took place they did absolutely nothing to the fly system. I've been told it had been inspected when the renovation took place and it is deemed safe, but we're stuck with dead hung electrics that make everything harder to do in this auditorium (the new electrics were too heavy for the old arbors to handle) Before the renovation we had flyable electrics. My question is how could somebody go about getting a school district to renovate... Even if it's just new battens, fly lines, and a few new higher capacity arbors. Our grand red lineset has been batten heavy for decades because it's kept at the arbors Max capacity. One of our battens has sheared at it's joint in two places over the past two years and multiple are not perfectly straight anymore. We have arbor guidelines that are severed at the bridge and need to be repaired... Lots of issues that make me feel unsafe as a student working with a fly system that I worry about breaking on me (one of the fly lines skipped out of a loft block the other day, something that happens at least once a year) and injuring me or someone on the stage (which would be the worst lawsuit ever). I just don't know how I can get something done, I don't care if it happens after I graduate, I just want something done and it seems like after the district did their capital project renovation they called it quits and decided they didn't want to pay any more attention to it.

SteveB

Well-Known Member
I trust 2 companies to do a system inspection. Pook-Diemont & Ohl, now a division of Texas Scenic and Sapsis Rigging.

Get a price and recommend to the school board.

egilson1

Senior Team
Senior Team
CB Mods
I also do inspections. Where are you geography?

Ethan

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
At 60 years, its likely past its useful life. Things like cast iron arbor ends, bushings instead of ball bearings, and a host of other components are not worth keeping in service. You could restore it and correct the safety issues, but probably in the 2/3 cost of new range and it will still operate mostly like a 60 year old system, and not for even close to another 50 years.

Parents and tax payers drive school priorities. Booster clubs and such are important. And a couple of school board members who support the arts, not just sports, can be very helpful. I work on a lot of school projects - I think 8 or 9 this year - and the school board supporter is important to the projects getting the attention necessary.

If it was inspected at all properly, there should be an inspection report. Try to get a copy of that. If it was done by a qualified person, it probably notes many deficiencies if you are correct about the condition. Reports like these often sit unheeded. Did an inspection a few months ago, and learned of one done 10 years prior. We had photos of many of the exact same issues, all uncorrected.

PDO and Sapis and others are fine companies but i know that reports recommending work and expenditures which are available from those same companies do not have the clout of an independent inspector who has nothing to gain on the results.

Andy Haefner

Active Member
At my high school our fly system is original to the school, almost 60 years old and it is in desperate need of repair, we just had a renovation to our auditorium last year but nothing was done to the fly system because as my supervisor suspects the administration are waiting for him to retire so they can put in a cheaper system of many less linesets (we currently have 30). But it would be an awful thing to see a high school once known for it's musical productions and the amount of scenery we could (compared to other local schools) put on a musical with only 3 or 4 extra linesets for scenery. This ongoing struggle I'm sure other people here can agree with that school districts don't always prioritize their arts prograns and are unfortunately all about cutting their costs and not spending money where it sometines needs to be. So in hopes of raising money for replacement of head blocks, loft blocks, lift lines, and battens (a retrofit would be cheaper than a full renovation and much easier to accomplish) I have started a GoFundMe to hopefully change things and get it done anyways, it could be years before they renovate (although really a downgrade) our fly system and in that time something could seriously go wrong, and I don't think that is the right way to go about things. So if anybody here at controlbooth would like to help me spread the word to potential donors and theatre enthusiasts who would support the arts. Then I have included the link below. If you don't wish to donate or spread the word, thank you anyways for looking.
https://www.gofundme.com/high-schoo...79944192-f83c56e563cd480b&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_m

teqniqal

Well-Known Member
If its 'going to be awhile' before they do anything, then this is your chance to start educating them about how theatre and theatre buildings work. As a community, we drill it into everyone to not let the general public know how the magic is made, but ignorance can be our enemy when it comes time to update or repair any theatre system. Think of the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Toto pulls-back the curtain and exposes the Wizard and his great machine. He says "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain". Well, that won't work when you are dealing with the people that control the facility budgets.

At every opportunity you need to get Administrators and School Board Members backstage, show them how a show is operated (including explaining why a ton of hardware over the crew and performer's heads could be very dangerous if not well maintained). Have them help with the running crew, get their hands dirty, and maybe raise a blister or two. I don't know who originally said it, but "Involve me and I will learn." can work wonders (or, should there be a horrific accident with lots of bills and legal payments, then it becomes "Invoice me and I will learn.") It's great that they have renovated the part of the magic show in front of the curtain, but they need to understand there will be no magic show behind the curtain if they don't fix that part, too.

Maybe look at getting some interim funding to hire a professional (i.e. a Theatre Consultant) to visit your venue and create an objective assessment report [refer to attached white paper]. This report can provide a basis for planning long term funding. Many things have changed in the last 60 years with regard to equipment technology, how we produce theatre, and building safety regulations. There are many aspects of a theatre plant that may require renovation, the rigging being just part of the list. For a theatre to function, ALL of the building systems have to work together in harmony (work lighting, stage lighting, run of show lighting, rigging, drapes, dimming control and power distribution, sound and intercommunications, floors, storage [and more storage], shops, dressing rooms, make-up areas, loading dock, HVAC [and HVAC machinery noise], Fire Alarm, Fire & Smoke Protection, Green Room, Orchestra Shells, Orchestra Lifts, Doors [sliding, swinging, and overhead], etc.). Planning to replace 'old' with a brand new version of 'old' is not making any progress and will doom your programs to mediocrity. Everything has changed since that venue was first planned, so involving a planner that thoroughly understands how all of these things interact and can affect the functionality of a venue is vital to making a plan and budget for the community to get behind. Renovations must plan for what will likely be 'mainstream technology' by the time the renovation is complete so it can provide a relevant teaching environment for the students.

Making the argument for real-world applicability of theatre training is a key element. Theatre training provides valuable job skills for ANY future job. The world-wide entertainment industry employs millions of people in thousands of positions from engineering and architecture to sales, technical support, and artistic output. If anyone needs any 'evidence' of this, just have them watch the credits (ALL OF THEM) at the end of a movie. Every one of those people listed put dinner on the table because of the entertainment industry (and that's just the movie business). Search the term 'Arts Advocacy' and you will find lots of articles and white papers that have been written about the value that fine arts programs in schools bring to the students.

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MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
You're going about this all the wrong way and if you want to be effective in this campaign you'll take that fundraising page down before anyone in your district notices. I don't mean to discourage you from bringing it up. It's important and it has life safety implications, but jumping the gun won't get you where you want to go.

Do you have a report from a rigging professional or theater consultant that indicates a total gut and overhaul is the way to go?
Has a qualified person investigated if there is a more cost-effective way to triage maintenance and/or replacement of existing systems. and how to prioritize spending instead of doing this in one fell swoop?
Does the district have a capital improvements and projects plan in place that may address that campus in the next few years? (i.e. is there a pot of money already set aside from something related in the near future?)

Some districts are better than others about maintaining and publishing a long term capital projects plan. Look on your district's website and see what you can find. If you dig this up, you'll get a much wider angle view of all of the major budget priorities the district has over the next 10 years and can reframe this project in a way that is aligned with other district goals.

If you want this to succeed, you should be focused on illustrating the impact on education, community, and business possibilities for revenue generation by increasing the ability for rentals of the theater. The district will need justification of a long-term capital investment (i.e. new rigging won't be made irrelevant by the school campus buildings reaching end of life in 10 years), and you should seek to engage and seek further guidance from various levels of staff, district admin, and maybe make a few friends at the local chamber of commerce.

You're not likely to find $150k that can be directed solely to the rigging in a project that seeks continue using the space in the same manner as it currently is. You're more likely to get traction on a project of that magnitude by going big or making it much more digestible in an annual budget cycle. Making friends with high level community members and district staff who can champion a$5M referendum, or identifying smaller bits and pieces that can be made digestible at $30k/year and can be integrated with an annual district budget for capital improvements. If the building hasn't seen a major renovation in 60 years, there's a good chance its due for other improvements such as replacement of HVAC systems, a new roof liner, a new stage deck, addition of a sprinkler system, replacement of lighting fixtures, building out some space for concessions and a donor wall, etc. Going through GoFundMe also negates any potential for tax write-offs for donors. Nobody's signing a check for$10,000 if they can't write it off.

Throwing the administration and taxpayers under the bus in the narrative for a major district fundraising effort you want to raise 6 figures will not make you any friends. You're publicly bringing embarrassment onto the shoulders of many people you need to be on your team if you want this project to be possible. That makes everyone defensive and unwilling to acknowledge a problem exists. It undercuts your credibility, and I would be wary of making such a dire life safety claim in this manner. Valid though it may be, that's an effective way to get your theater operations shut down or put under a great deal of scrutiny from all the wrong people who want nothing more than to find someone to blame.

jayvee

Active Member
I may be wrong here but it also seems like subby may be a student and not a staff member. If that's the case, there is a whole additional slew of policies and procedures here which have to be addressed by the faculty/staff at this school and not a student. I think it's great for the students to take initiative but also very easy for things to run afoul of a host of rules and regulations here.

Andy Haefner

Active Member
@jayvee @MNicolai @BillConnerFASTC @teqniqal thank you, you all have brought a lot of ideas to me that will help a lot more than anything I was doing, I realized I was going about things wrong and you've told me how to do things right, I am in conversation with my advisor about how to make these changes happen and you've brought a lot onto my mind. Thank you all

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BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
I think - based on my observations and travels - its safe to assume a significant percentage of school theatres suffer some or all or more of the deficiencies Andy discusses. Sometimes, making noise - to paraphrase the squeaky block gets the grease - is a justifiable course of action (albeit, not always successful and sometimes counterproductive).

Go-fund-me may be an early step too far, but shedding light and heightening awareness among the administration, staff, and community is probably a god thing of done well.

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
The thing that often scares me with these situations is that someone raises a stink, "This is dangerous and needs to be fixed!" Admin says, "Well let's get it looked at." Inspector says, "Here's your list of things that need to be fixed. Here's the list of really dangerous things. here's what needs to be taken out of service." Rigging Company receives request to cost a renovation. They Deliver a number. Admin says, "Impossible! We'll fix the grand drape and valance and abate the Asbestos fire curtain and make the rest of the system off limits" not understanding they now have a bunch of rigging hanging that needs to be replaced even if it's not being used.
Or the city just condemns the auditorium and nobody gets to use it.

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Is that last option better or worse than leaving it in use and someone is seriously injured?

I'm probably the last one to cry doom and gloom and red tag a stage, but sometimes it's the right call. Twice for me iirc. Not bad for 36+ years as consultant.

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