Professional Review of Rigging Design

TDJ

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When a professional theatrical rigger reviews someone else's design of a rigging system for its suitability to a specific purpose, in this case lifting heavy loads -- including stage wagons and actors -- overhead on stage, and does so on a pro bono basis as a favor to his no-budget community theater friends, what precisely might this professional's review entail? Would it be inherently limited in scope in some way, and if so for what reasons? Suppose that the reviewer will not be asked to be present to oversee the installation of the system at the theater by the designer and his community theater friends.

I am basically trying to understand what information you folks need to see in such a design in order for any review to be truly meaningful, and if there are overriding reasons for you not to become involved at all, then I'd like to know of those as well.
 
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TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
The first thing would be a review of the venue by a registered professional structural engineer, licensed in the jurisdiction the theater is located in. Once the engineer puts his stamp on the drawings the "rigger" can determine what methods and materials are appropriate for the needed lifting in that venue.

With the consideration that actors and other personnel will be lifted I submit that running away (like Brave Sir Robin in Monty Python's Holy Grail) is the best option. Why? Because the liability is unlimited. That nobody professional will be on site to ensure the engineering is followed, that the rigger's design is implemented correctly, etc means potential for a number of problems that could lead to personal injury or death, or possible catastrophic property damage.

Lifting on this scale isn't for no-money community theatre companies. I suggest the Anvil Of Reality be dropped on whoever came up with this idea.
 

JAC

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Jan 10, 2018
Location
Cleveland
There are overriding reasons not to get involved at all, and I doubt that a qualified (read certified) rigger would.

First, only a handful of companies are qualified to fly people. If the no-budget community theatre can't afford to hire one of them, they can't afford to do a show that involves flying people.

Second, a qualified rigger would be nuts to "review" a design, then turn it over to a bunch of folks he doesn't know who might execute what he reviewed and might not.

No offence, but it doesn't sound like the no-budget community theatre is qualified to do this, and there's no way a drive-by certified rigger can magically make them qualified.
 

NateTheRiddler

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Location
Arizona, US
I’ve been put in this position before by houses of worship because I was involved with their community, and to their impression, I was an expert on everything theatre. They would ask me to “look over” designs, concepts, etc, and then sign off on them as “professional”, “safe”, or “quality.” I refused.

If a certified and professional rigger is doing the oversight, I suppose it’s not all bad, but it’s so much more liability than I’d personally be willing to accept. I run away from liability because behind every client and their non-understanding of the need for professional certified help is a lawyer armed with every clause they need to put my career aspirations six feet under.

Granted, I’m being a bit cynical. But @JAC makes an excellent point: why certify something as acceptable, especially without the legal backing of employment, only to have someone completely uncertified make use of what you signed off on? Goodness knows what could get inserted in between the lines there.
 
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RonHebbard

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I’ve been put in this position before by houses of worship because I was involved with their community, and to their impression, I was an expert on everything theatre. They would ask me to “look over” designs, concepts, etc, and then sign off on them as “professional”, “safe”, or “quality.” I refused.

If a certified and professional rigger is doing the oversight, I suppose it’s not all bad, but it’s so much more liability than I’d personally be willing to accept. I run away from liability because behind every client and their non-understanding of the need for professional certified help is a lawyer armed with every clause they need to put my career aspirations six feet under.

Granted, I’m being a bit cynical. But @JAC makes an excellent point: why certify something as acceptable, especially without the legal backing of employment, only to have someone completely uncertified make use of what you signed off on? Goodness knows what could get inserted in between the lines there.
@TDJ @TimMc @JAC and @NateTheRiddler plus ( @What Rigger? and @egilson1 while I'm typing.)
Some 15 or 20 years ago, someone was SURE flying a wrestler in amidst a barrage of deck mounted pyro' cannons would be a spectacular way to enter for a WWF (or whatever the acronym was) event before a sold out house in our local 17,000 seat arena.
(How hard could it be? [ You can imagine the twit thinking, if any THINKING was involved.])
It definitely was memorable for the audience when the pyro' cleared to reveal one of Canada's Hart family lying in a crumpled heap blocking the centre of the performers' main entrance with four Xenon follow spots highlighting him. The press and video photographers were impressed too. Not being a wrestling afficianado, I can't quite pull the wrestler's name into focus. The family's surname was Hart, and included their father and at least two or three sons who all had successful careers wrestling and were famous coast to coast up here on my side of Donald's walls. I'm sure Google'd be your friend if you're idly curious.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
Disney "flew" some big props and set pieces as a matter of storage during performances of Beauty & the Beast. Maurice's "Invention" was one of them. Special cart to safely hold the unit, then raised with conventional C-M Lodestar electric hoists. Disney Theatrical had a structural engineer review the theater and specify modifications needed.

The Gazelle Company of The Lion King did the same thing: advance carpenter came in, took pictures, measurements, and made drawings followed by a visit from an engineer to be the reality check on what could and could not go overhead, and how that was to be done.

Ditto for Wicked!'s visit to my fair city.

So yes, suspending large and heavy things is do-able. It only takes money. If you put people in the air, whether as a flying effect or simply to get them out of the way, things get a lot more expensive because maiming and/or killing folks ain't cheap, either.
 

TDJ

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Location
East Coast USA
Thank you, gentlemen.

I wanted to try to state the problem fairly without prejudicing your opinions.

I am the TD of that small theater and came within inches this past weekend of resigning outright over management's insistence that they could safely DIY this. It's a long sad story that I won't regale you with publicly because it is still ongoing. I've been in business for myself in the past. I just wanted to confirm my longstanding assumptions that no reasonable, responsible professional would sign off on something like this absent other relevant knowledge to which I am not privy since I am not remotely an expert in this area. Either way, risking injury to friends is not my thing and I don't see myself taking a bullet for people whose egos may have gotten the better of their judgment. I appreciate your frankness. You run a most helpful web site.
 

egilson1

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Location
Boston, MA
@TDJ @TimMc @JAC and @NateTheRiddler plus ( @What Rigger? and @egilson1 while I'm typing.)
Some 15 or 20 years ago, someone was SURE flying a wrestler in amidst a barrage of deck mounted pyro' cannons would be a spectacular way to enter for a WWF (or whatever the acronym was) event before a sold out house in our local 17,000 seat arena.
(How hard could it be? [ You can imagine the twit thinking, if any THINKING was involved.])
It definitely was memorable for the audience when the pyro' cleared to reveal one of Canada's Hart family lying in a crumpled heap blocking the centre of the performers' main entrance with four Xenon follow spots highlighting him. The press and video photographers were impressed too. Not being a wrestling afficianado, I can't quite pull the wrestler's name into focus. The family's surname was Hart, and included their father and at least two or three sons who all had successful careers wrestling and were famous coast to coast up here on my side of Donald's walls. I'm sure Google'd be your friend if you're idly curious.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Owen Hart, performing as the Blue Blazer. He was lowered from the arena grid to the ring via harness and rope attached to the Dorsel ring. He was suspended by the rope and reached behind him to assist in putting on his cape (part of his costume as the blue blazer) and caught the pull cord to the quick release. He fell 90 odd feet and hit the turnbuckles in one ring corner. There were professionals all around and it had been done successfully many times, and yet one of the nicest and most talented wrestlers of the day died because of a design flaw in the system.
 

TimMc

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Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Thank you, gentlemen.

I wanted to try to state the problem fairly without prejudicing your opinions.

I am the TD of that small theater and came within inches this past weekend of resigning outright over management's insistence that they could safely DIY this. It's a long sad story that I won't regale you with publicly because it is still ongoing. I've been in business for myself in the past. I just wanted to confirm my longstanding assumptions that no reasonable, responsible professional would sign off on something like this absent other relevant knowledge to which I am not privy since I am not remotely an expert in this area. Either way, risking injury to friends is not my thing and I don't see myself taking a bullet for people whose egos may have gotten the better of their judgment. I appreciate your frankness. You run a most helpful web site.
The words "rigging" or "flying" and "DIY" don't belong in the same sentence unless it included the phrase "don't do this". You know that already, but it's the segue to the next paragraph:

I have questions for the board members or whoever it is that thinks this is a reasonable idea: are they willing to sign, as individuals, a document pledging their personal assets and future incomes to settle any failure resulting in property damage, personal injury or death? Are they willing to indemnify the theater company for any uninsured claims against it as the result of home-brew estimagneering shortcomings? In short, are they willing to accept the legal and fiduciary liability of not utilizing professional resources and implementing known industry standards and best practices?
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Location
Clayton NY 13624
Well, I might do this kind of review, but it would focus on the unacceptable, acceptable, and a lot of options they might consider in place of their ideas. I might walk away and just say no, or I might assist hoping that they could avoid disaster.

Let's face it, a lot of places get away with a lot of really bad "rigging" every day.

I'd never take payment. Leaves me out of legal liability.
 
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TDJ

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East Coast USA
The words "rigging" or "flying" and "DIY" don't belong in the same sentence unless it included the phrase "don't do this". You know that already, but it's the segue to the next paragraph:

I have questions for the board members or whoever it is that thinks this is a reasonable idea: are they willing to sign, as individuals, a document pledging their personal assets and future incomes to settle any failure resulting in property damage, personal injury or death? Are they willing to indemnify the theater company for any uninsured claims against it as the result of home-brew estimagneering shortcomings? In short, are they willing to accept the legal and fiduciary liability of not utilizing professional resources and implementing known industry standards and best practices?

They seem to believe that they possess the relevant skill sets and the appropriate immunity from such legal concerns. Regardless of whether or not any of that is in fact true, it is not something that my conscience would allow me to test at the possible expense of anyone's health and safety. I would like to think that if they do run this by some professional company or other that the "anvil of reality" will be dropped upon them by someone with more street cred than I bring to the argument. I'm just one of those guys who knows just enough to know that he doesn't know enough to do this on his own account, and is politely skeptical whether they really do.
 

RonHebbard

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Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Owen Hart, performing as the Blue Blazer. He was lowered from the arena grid to the ring via harness and rope attached to the Dorsel ring. He was suspended by the rope and reached behind him to assist in putting on his cape (part of his costume as the blue blazer) and caught the pull cord to the quick release. He fell 90 odd feet and hit the turnbuckles in one ring corner. There were professionals all around and it had been done successfully many times, and yet one of the nicest and most talented wrestlers of the day died because of a design flaw in the system.
@egilson1 I stand corrected; you are correct, it was Owen Hart, NOT Brett Hart and he died during a Pay Per View event on May 23rd, 1999 in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.
EDIT: @TDJ
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Just gonna add my +1 to everyone else's here:

WALK. AWAY.


Unless you can and/or want to get a lawyer to write up some kind of paperwork absolving you of responsibility WHEN someone is hurt (i'm not even 100% sure how that would be worded), I would absolve myself of this early and often. While the professionals do have a toolbox, so to speak, for flying people, there's no "one-and-done" solution that could be pre-installed that covers all bases. Hire the pros or don't do it. Scenery needs to be designed to be flown, even for storage; otherwise it will (eventually) fall.

If MGMT *insists* it can be done DIY then they need to own up and put their liability where their mouths are; and unless they themselves are certified riggers AND certified engineers, that's just hot air they're blowing - probably just to save money.

WALK. AWAY.
 

What Rigger?

I'm so fly....I Neverland.
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PPT.
Owen Hart, performing as the Blue Blazer. He was lowered from the arena grid to the ring via harness and rope attached to the Dorsel ring. He was suspended by the rope and reached behind him to assist in putting on his cape (part of his costume as the blue blazer) and caught the pull cord to the quick release. He fell 90 odd feet and hit the turnbuckles in one ring corner. There were professionals all around and it had been done successfully many times, and yet one of the nicest and most talented wrestlers of the day died because of a design flaw in the system.
Not to hijack the thread, but if you can find it, Owen Hart's wife wrote a book about the incident called "Broken Harts", and if the information presented is even half correct, this was a freight train of bad decisions that (as these things do) ended in tragedy.

I believe the book is out of print, and my copy is still making the rounds in my network, but it is fascinating and terrifying. Fastest cross country flight I ever had.
 

JChenault

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Jan 5, 2009
Location
seattle, wa USA
Not to hijack the thread, but if you can find it, Owen Hart's wife wrote a book about the incident called "Broken Harts", and if the information presented is even half correct, this was a freight train of bad decisions that (as these things do) ended in tragedy.

I believe the book is out of print, and my copy is still making the rounds in my network, but it is fascinating and terrifying. Fastest cross country flight I ever had.
To hijack further. I find Broken Hart’s on Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009W4F0L4/?tag=controlbooth-20
 
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