Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Once Again, Into the Breech, Dear Friends ...

Call it "Phase II," call it "The Second Reckoning,"or "The Revenge of the Red Tape." Call it what you will.

I call it "Long Overdue."

This week, the Little Theater rigging project began. In one day, the good folks from Tiffin Scenic Studios wrought their demolition powers, and had the original Little Theater rigging - with the exception of the electrics - cleaned out. What they found was not surprising. Well, it was surprising, but not in the way that we hoped.

For those not close to the situation, here's the skinny. Our little theater for its entire existence relied upon three hand-crank winches to raise and lower the electrical battens - primarily for the purpose of hanging lights from the ground instead of using our lift. All three winches were attached to one 2x12 firmly bolted to the wall. Our main curtain was hung from the ceiling on its track, and the remaining curtains - well, we haven't had any since 1995. In short, we had a functional theater that was not completely equipped.

Danger tape and plywood signs - now a distant memory.
During our preparation for the show Harvey in September of 2010, we began to have trouble with the middle winch - it wouldn't move the batten. Closer inspection showed a frayed cable, and a head block -  a pulley mounted from the roof I-beam - that was jammed. Then we really started looking. There were LOTS of problems, not among the least being the large 2x12 that anchored the winches to the wall was showing signs of weakening. We stopped everything at that point, and had Derek (the technical director from Theater Cedar Rapids and experienced rigger) take a close look. He told us we shouldn't do anything else with the battens. (Actually, what he said was more shocking and urgent than that, but for now, let's just say he was plain about his recommendation.) The district came in the following Monday AM, secured the battens to the I-Beams, and covered our wall with red tape and all sorts of danger warnings. For the uninformed, there would be no mistaking the message: don't touch the winches.

It should be mentioned that by this time, we already knew that the rigging in both theaters was scheduled to be replaced; the timetable for the Little Theater was set for Summer of 2012. I thought this might bump it up because of the safety issues. We were assured that since the winches and battens were secured, it would be OK, so the schedule stayed unchanged,

Welded head blocks: boo!
The equipment removed by Tiffin during the first day showed that while we had exhausted this equipment beyond usefulness, there were signs that this wasn't the first time that repairs or quick fixes had been made. The cables were worse than we thought - and considering that we thought they were in bad shape, this is really saying something - and the winches showed sign of excessive wear in parts that shouldn't show wear. Probably the most disturbing was the pulleys that had been repaired a long time ago - they had be welded back together. (I will grant that in some cases welds can be stronger than the steel they are knitting together, but according to our installers, this was probably not the soundest of ideas.) The photo to the right shows one of these head blocks.

The good news is that the new rigging will be installed before The Fourth of July, which means that we will be able to work on the set for Leading Ladies as we hoped - starting sometime in the first or second week of August. More on that in later postings. For now, take a look at what our naked Little Theater looks like. It won't look too much different than this when it's done, save for the new curtains and tracks that allow us to adjust where we put those lovely new black curtains. Oh, and we'll have a roller cyc for the back of the theater as well ... but I get ahead of myself. I'll post more about those items as they get installed.

Phase II is now moving along - and I'm thankful for that. Stay tuned for more updates.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooo I will have to visit next time I'm in town. I miss techie stuff!