Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965 - 30



The By.Laws of the USITT list among its
purposes in Article I those specific areas with which this column of T D & T is concerned: research and investigation, the
assembly and dissemination of results through publication in the
fi e I ds of theatre p lonni "9, des i gn, con struction, equ i pment, and
operation, that is to say production in the theatre. While limited
space will not allow treatment in depth/ the column will serve as
on indicator of significant events, and as on opportunity for
keeping abreast of the increasing pace in technological developments. An invi~ation is hereby extended to forward news items

to the undersigned

(Indiana University Theatre, Bloomington,

The design of theatres and their facilities has capitalized in
many individual ways on the developments in use of electricity
and machinery during this half century. however, those tendencies
encouraging as well an integrated use of such devices and of
form, materials and function developed from architecture only
rarely emerged in the theatres of the United States before the
Second World War. The application of heavier power equipment
for set changes and adjustment at will of the theatre's form and
size wos not widespreod in America until the laie Fifties. Then
a variety of installations ran the gamut of developments token as
a matter of course in the Continental theatres, but added the flexibility of auditorium variations to stage modification, to give us
numerous examples of the multiform theatre. These ranged from
tentative variations of the proscenium stage to those approximating the arena stage. The machinery often assumed the gargantuan
and self-conscious proportions of a means with no end in evidence. The development of power-driven and remotely-controlled
scenic mobility emulated some of the ponderous examples of
German pract ice in the T wenti es. In the U. S., However, the art
of scenic design came into its own as a contributing production
art in the Twenties. Thus, while the influence of the European
theatre was happily not negligible, the native American flavor
was predominant here. Still the development in techniques and
materials of scene construction and pointing did not reveal much
change from the lost century, barring niceties and refinements.
Not until the age of plastics was the way opened for a series of
developments which provided economical and novel construction
technology still awaits some vanety of ethylene, styrofoam or
glass fibre to provide an improvement on the Renoissance·originoted methods for construction of flats. Here as in all construction techniques, the problem of making and breaking ioints is the
most crucial.
While stage lighting experienced a :lecided boost along the way
to outomation of control with the introduction of electricity and
the resistance dimmer, if was not until the advent of the auto·
transformer in the Thirties that consoles with good
control ratios were possible without much engineerirg knowledge.
This was true for the angle.iron supported, interlocking lever~
actuated arrays of manufactured dimmers as well as for the arna·
teur's efforts. The introduction of the ellipsoidal spotlight in the
Thirties provided omore specifically.controlled long range instrument which at the some time also offered a considerable increase
in efficiency o .... er the spherical-reflector spotlight. Too, on inexpensive yet relatively well-deSigned spherical.reflector spot was
developed, once the fresnel lens and Alzcc process reflector
become available.

presets. Automation with card.sensing devices and signal modification by means of slider system;; in a variety of preset arrangements was logically the next step. However, the legitimate
reluctance of the artist to surrender immediate control of the
lighting to automation brought the systems designer bock to the
drawing board to develop a system which not only allows infinite
presetting and reduction of the number of control units where
desired, but also mechanically and electrically sets all potentio·
meters on the control board at the setting obtained for each cue
so that the operator can make changes at wi II. Furthermore, with
the press of a button he can effect a new recording of cues to
incorporate the changes. Some of these systems are presently
available in Europe and others, including some from American
manufacturers, are in the developmental process.
The evolution of sound control has also reached a level of refinement equivalent to lighting controL Because the necessity for
sound environment is not inherent in dramatic production to the
same extent as lighting, the demand for control facilities has
often been allowed to succumb to the rigors of economy. This is
particularly true under conditions of dwindling finances and in
the theatres where the stoff locks experience with the enrichments theatre sound offers. A number of heartening exceptions
are now in exist~nce across the country to provide stimulation
for more widespread acceptance and newer developments: the
New York State Theatre, Indiana University Theatre, and the
University theatre at UCLA (see elsewhere in this issue).
The field of costuming has profited from the development of many
synthetic fabrics and new application of familiar materials.
The more widespread use of locally-designed alld produced costumes throughout the United States has contributed to a growing
self·sufflciency in the producing theatres on this continent. As a
result costume rentals from the large commercial firms now
a smaller percentage of all period .play5. The professional theatre in New York still has recourse to the quality
commercial costume houses for creating its investiture, even as
it resorts to the large scenic construction and painting houses
for its scenery. Theatrical makeup has benefited from an active
commercial field where extensive research has led to fod and
style developments and often to reol advances. Ranging from 0
slapdash but skillful application of 0 bit of dry makeup by one
professional to the meticulous preparation of prosthesis pieces
and their careful and time-consuming application, a range of
techniques is invol .... ed which should be much more widely


Of general





by Blihnen-

~che Rundschau (BTRl that the revision of GERMAN
STANDARDS is available in English translation from Deutschen
Normenausschuss, Berlin 15, West Germany. The English editions have prices equal to their German language originals. PubIi shed German Standards relating to theatre technology are also
available in Val s . 58 and 59 of BTR.
Of interest to the theatre architect are two recently-granted U S
Potents to R. Buckminster Fuller for truncabil,ty in his Geodesic
dome ("3,197,927). and a new Monohex ("3,203, l d 4); the potent . .

Control equIpment components and systems were the first to be
Widely employed as byproducts from the Second World Wor , in
the late Forties and early Fifties. With the magnetic amplifIer,
the grid-controlled tube soon shored the controls market. Certainly the most far·reaching applications have been made in the
field of electronics, particularly for light and sound control.
Recently the development of the silicon-controlled rectifier
(SCR) dimmer and other solid-state devices have provided the
theatre techn i ci an with soph i s fl catcd equi pmen t for in advance of
that available to his European counterparts. (Inciden ally, such
equipment demands greatly-increased engineering capabilities for
operation and maintenance_) SCR dimmer installations were soon
established in theatres throughout the country. The use of remote
stations as an inherent part of the dimming design not mechanically imposed on the system was first possible with the reactance
dimming systems installed just before World War Two in such
theatres as the Universities of Iowa and Stanford, the Chicago
Opera Co. and Radio City Music Hall, New York. Later systems
included group and individual mastering and master and sub·
master systems combined with fading devices for tv.,.'o or more







Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965

Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965 - 1
Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965 - 2
Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965 - 3
Theatre Design & Technology - Oct 1965 - Contents
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