When the newly renovated Hanna Theatre in Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare reopened in October 2008, the set pieces for the opening production of Shakespeare's Macbeth moved smoothly and with precision—thanks to the 48 new PowerLift Automated Hoists provided by J. R. Clancy, Inc., and installed by Beck Studios.
The only theatre in PlayhouseSquare with a computer-controlled automated rigging system, the Hanna Theatre has been transformed from a circa 1921 Broadway tour house with an old-fashioned hemp and counterweight rigging system to a state-of-the-art, year-round home for the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
The Hanna Theatre's distinguished past includes more than 60 years as the leading Broadway touring house in Cleveland, with luminaries including Noel Coward, Henry Fonda, Helen Hayes, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy gracing its stage. The grand theatre went dark in 1988 when Broadway tours moved to a newer theatre in Playhouse Square, then underwent a renovation that converted the theatre into a cabaret-style performance space. It operated in this form until December 2007, when it closed for its current reconstruction.
Designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, the newly imagined Hanna Theatre's $14.7 million renovation reduced the house to 500 seats—down from the original 1,400—with no seat more than 11 rows from the action onstage. Innovative seating arrangements include banquettes for groups, table configurations and boxes as well as traditional theatre seats. The architects matched their front-of-house ingenuity with inventiveness onstage and backstage as well, choosing Clancy's automated rigging system and a hydraulic system to add flexibility to the thrust stage configuration.
The three hydraulic lifts are the result of a partnership between Atlantic Industrial Technologies, Turner Construction, J. R. Clancy and MG McLaren Engineering in a collaborative design and manufacturing process. The result: The lifts can change the configuration of the stage at an unprecedented speed of two feet per second, to the delight of directors and audiences alike. The project was made possible by a donation of parts from industrial lift manufacturer Parker-Hannifin.
Great Lakes Theater Festival performs in rotating repertory, so automated rigging makes a critical difference in the company's ability to change over from one major production's sets to another.
"This theatre is the first theatre in PlayhouseSquare to have a completely automated line set system," said Charles Fee, producing artistic director of Great Lakes Theater Festival. "We have 48 separate line sets in here, each one of which can carry twelve hundred and fifty pounds. They're all electronically operated by computer, and we can move twelve of them simultaneously, each at a different speed or in a different direction. We'll change over from Macbeth to Into the Woods in two hours—reconfigure the whole theatre with our deck crew in two hours. That is nothing, really. It used to take ten hours to do a significant changeover.”
This level of automation is made possible by the SceneControl 500 motion control system from J. R. Clancy. The SceneControl 500 can move as many as 12 line sets simultaneously, even if each line set moves at a different speed. With only one person required to run the SceneControl system, the show can run with fewer operators, another time and money saver for GLTF. In addition to the computer console, the Hanna chose a portable pendant, which allows stagehands to control the 48 PowerLifts and the three hydraulic stage lifts remotely, moving to whatever spot offers the best sight lines for observation of moving scenery.
In addition to the rigging and lifts, Clancy installed a Zetex fire curtain with a powered brail winch and eight gallery-mounted, moving portable light ladders on HD tracks.
Established in 1885, J. R. Clancy designs, manufactures and installs automated theatrical hoists and control systems, manual rigging equipment, acoustic canopies and custom stage machinery for theatres, concert halls, schools, convention centers, arenas, showrooms, and opera houses worldwide. J.R. Clancy has received ISO 9001:2000 certification—making it the only stage rigging manufacturer in the United States to earn this international quality management certification.
For additional information, contact J. R. Clancy at 800.836.1885 or www.jrclancy.com.