List of working Hemp Houses?

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Until late last year the Pittsburgh Playhouse had 1 theater with a working hemp system. Building is now shut down and the university that owned it just opened their new PAC. Sad.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

gafftapegreenia

CBMod
CB Mods
Joined
Sep 24, 2005
Location
Michigan
I don’t think there’s a master list - but through our collective power we could fix that.

“True” professional hemp rig houses are becoming rare, but plenty of community and education spaces operate with hemp-like systems, even if they don’t use hemp.

Ah, the Calumet! I made it up there a few summers ago. I love that place.

There’s a hemp house that *just* installed a modern system but the name is escaping me at the moment.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Does anyone know of any list of currently working hemp houses in the north east...or anywhere at this point?
Thanks
@brucek Where were you hoping to go with this thread? I'd like to think many single and double purchase counter-weight houses utilize hemp, or similar, spot lines including multi-line spot line sets to add additional full width pipes between their single or double purchase counter-weighted line sets. I miss the old terms and calls; such as: Short short, short, short centre, centre, long centre, long and long long. (Naming and referring to the individual lines in a seven line set.) Calls such as: "Feet on!" and "Feet off!" when the flyman wanted stagehands to hold the pipe tightly to the deck while he took and equalized tension on all the individual lines within a given line set and then when he wanted them to stand clear while he lifted it approximately three or four feet off the deck and took a tie prior to the deck carps securing a drop, or whatever, to the pipe. One of the pains of real hemp was how humidity / moisture affected trims with the longer lines being affected more than the shorter lines resulting in not only changes in trim heights but pipes tilting at angles with reference to the deck. More modern line materials better resisted changes due to humidity / moisture content / temperature. Thanks @brucek for an interesting post sparking many happy memories. (but not the memories of festering slivers from dirty hemp) I don't much miss 100 pound sand bags and bag lines to grunt the bags a little to allow the flyman to re-trim the individual lines within a given line set.
EDIT: In the days of wooden loft blocks, head blocks and sheaves we'd often put two head blocks next to each other to create a six or seven line set for heavier loads. If your venue was old enough you had wooden battens. Depending upon the width of your stage your battens may have been supported by anywhere from three to five lines. If you were going to be flying something appreciably heavier than normal and / or you were worried about the age and condition of some of your lines; positioning a three sheave head block immediately adjacent to a four sheave head block allowed you to create a seven part hemp set. Oh the days of wooden grids, blocks and sheaves.
(I'll crawl back in my hole now.)
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
Last edited:

gafftapegreenia

CBMod
CB Mods
Joined
Sep 24, 2005
Location
Michigan
@RonHebbard , you make an important point about hybrid spaces. My college’s theatre, built in 1974, has a mid level gallery with a hemp pinrail, in addition to about 35 standard counterweight sets. We used the heck out of the pinrail for single picks, side tabs, and regular line sets for bigger shows. I loved having that flexibility.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
@RonHebbard , you make an important point about hybrid spaces. My college’s theatre, built in 1974, has a mid level gallery with a hemp pinrail, in addition to about 35 standard counterweight sets. We used the heck out of the pinrail for single picks, side tabs, and regular line sets for bigger shows. I loved having that flexibility.
@gafftapegreenia With two rows of pins, upper and lower: You often tied your 'in' trim on the lower row and your 'out' trim on the upper row. Cheaper, or less well planned, installations had only a single row of pins; you normally tied your 'in' trim on a pin and left it there neat and precise then tied your out trim on an adjacent empty pin if / when you had one. If / when you had no spare adjacent pins, you tied your 'in' trim neat and pretty then overhauled the piece out and tied your 'out' trim on the same pin on top of your 'in' trim without destroying its accuracy. I don't miss the festering slivers from dirty, grimy hemp. Thanks for the memories.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

DrewE

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
I think the Town Hall Theater in Woodstock, VT is still mostly a hemp house (with synthetic rather than hemp ropes, as of about five years ago). When I volunteered there a bit while in high school it was excepting for the stage electrics that were on counterweighted line sets. In use, at least at that point, it may as well have been dead hung; there wasn't much if any actual flying of stuff going on. Perhaps the movie screen is also on some sort of a counterweight or winch system.

It's a neat little community venue, in operation continually since it opened in 1900.
 

venuetech

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Location
AK,
At this point Hemp and Manila should not be confused. Most of us have never laid a hand on actual hemp lines. I have often wondered just how they would compare with manila. Also I think most of these houses have moved on to synthetic lines of some sort. The term hemp in reality only refers to how these houses are rigged and operated.
 

brucek

Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
Location
Western Massachusetts
I am speaking rigging wise. I am assuming synthetic lines (I do not believe I have seen a new manila line installed in the last 30 years....and I would like to believe that 30 year old working lines would be changed by now). Having just hemp twine to go by, I would assume a hemp rope would be significantly less splintery than manila. I believe the hemp fibers are thinner than the manila so maybe the hemp rope would shrink less?

This all started with a discussion about where the skill set needed to run a hemp fly can still be found...especially because much of the knowledge is very house specific.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Much of the knowledge is also aging out of the craft. So passing that knowledge on to the younger stage hand may become an issue.
@venuetech Understood and agreed. Whenever we had rockers in and had their pre-rigged truss sections supported by one or two of our single-purchase counter-weighted line sets we had to dang near sever their wrists when striking to keep them from removing their trusses prior to our loaders removing any of our counter-weights from our arbors. Trying to get the rockers out of their Loadstar mind set was virtually impossible. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Drop those trusses!!
At today's end of the spectrum: Who is this Dante, do I want to know him and why?
Your point is made, understood and appreciated. Too old; yes. Too old to learn; I hope never.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dionysus

Aaron Clarke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Location
Richmond, IN
The The Abbeville Opera House has this on thie website- I'm guessing they didn't install a hemp house style fly in 2000 but then $20k doesn't seem like enough to convert to counter weight.

In the year 2000, a $20,000 fund raising campaign entitled “We’re at the End of Our Ropes” was completed – resulting in the purchase and installation of a new rigging system above the 7500 sq. ft. stage. This rigging equipment, used for the movement of scenery, lighting equipment and other production elements is an integral part of the on-stage theatre facility.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I worked on renovation of the Scottish Rites theatre in Bloomington IL into Bloomington Center for the Arts in early 2000s. It was principally rope righing with some home made arbors that scared the daylights out if me. Only second time I ever said to not allow anyone on stage. Used annually for American Passion Play with many drops - maybe like 100 originally but had dwindled - so new counterweight was based on 8" centers and was opposite side if fly gallery. Allowed for a rope and sandbag set between each counterweight set just for Passion play. I think audience dwindled and it is no more.

They reminded me very much if the Midsummer players. Great group. I still stay in touch with one guy.
 

egilson1

Senior Team
Senior Team
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Location
Boston, MA
Many Scottish Rite buildings still have “hemp” rigging.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

Users who are viewing this thread