Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 25

they do one more thing to ensure the easiest, most friction-free operation. At the
point that the blocks are installed, and
before the loft lines are strung, the installer spins every sheave by hand. Gary says
that in his years of experience, between
10 and 20 percent of the sheaves did
not spin freely. As an installer and, now,
a manufacturer of blocks, the people at
GC know that 100 percent of the sheaves
may turn freely on the assembly bench.
But then they are loaded into a truck to
travel perhaps hundreds of miles, then
off-loaded from the truck, hauled up 50 to
80 feet to the grid, carried to the installation point and then installed. All that time
they are being bumped and bounced.
Once installed, the travails of the blocks
end. And the last step of spinning the
sheave allows the installer the opportunity to make any adjustment necessary to
free it.

Maintaining the Unicorn

A well-designed system, with the better
components from a better manufacturer,
and installed by a qualified installer, will
result in a system that can be the best
system ever for the first day. The system
then becomes the property of the user.
Dan Mooney was the first technical
director at the Imperial when the system
was delivered in 1993. Mooney started
his ownership by receiving a training
session on the balancing of line sets at
mid travel. The training was provided by
the installer. And the users that followed
Mooney, and trained by him, have maintained balanced line sets for the entire 27
years.
Then there is ongoing maintenance.
According to standard accounting practices, 10 percent of the capital cost of
whatever-in this case a rigging system-should be budgeted every year for
operation, maintenance, repair, and replacement. In the military, the practice
is to budget 20 percent for a minimum
of 10 years in advance. The reason that
the military uses this higher amount is
that everything that the military owns is
mission critical. I think we can agree that
theatre technical systems, including rigging, are mission critical to our operation.
How much should the Imperial spend
on operation, maintenance, repair, and
replacement every year? The Imperial
system, if replaced today, would cost at
least $500,000. Therefore, optimally, this

system should have $100,000 budgeted
annually for operation, maintenance,
repair, and replacement. Of course, budgets are never so neat and clearly defined, but discussion with Shawn Lord
suggests that the Imperial Theatre falls
somewhere around the 20 percent range.
What are the extra costs of installing a
superior rigging system, such as the one
in the Imperial Theatre? There are two
cost categories: components and installation time. A block set with multi-groove
sheaves is about 10 percent more expensive than a block set with single groove
sheaves and idlers. But the cost of loft
blocks represents only about 25 percent
of all of the components of a line set. All
other components are the same price no
matter what loft blocks are used. So a 10
percent increase for loft blocks, which
represent 25 percent of the total of components, increases the cost of all components by 2.5 percent.
The second cost category is the installation. Some argue that there should be
no extra cost to installing a system well.
Although there is merit to that argument,
for the purpose of this article, let's assume it does cost more. Most of the costs
of installing a system well or poorly are
the same. The cost of bidding the project is the same. The cost of transporting
the components to the site is the same,
as is the cost of removing the old system.
In fact, the only difference in installation
time is the extra time it might take to assure that the guide wall is true and plumb
and the extra (albeit necessary) time that
it might take to assure that the blocks are
properly aligned. What might be the extra
cost of aligning the blocks and the guide
wall properly? It might be very little.
When I was first engaged by the
Imperial, I was told that they needed
to start to plan the replacement of the
system. For a 27-year-old system, that
seemed to be a reasonable presumption.
By the time I left St. John, I was of the
opinion that the system simply needed
to have some of the normal wear items
replaced, which was not a surprise. But
the core of the system was in a very serviceable condition. It might have another
15 years left. Or, it could last for another
27 years. I expect that the system did
cost more when initially installed, but a
40- to 60-year life expectancy, rather than
30 years, means that they will have saved
money in the long run.

So what if they paid 2.5 percent more
for components and, say, 10 percent
more for installation? Admittedly, these
figures are arbitrary, and only time will
tell how long the system will last. But the
figures permit a conceptual discussion to
make a point. Let's assume that the building itself lasts for 120 years clocked from
1993. Let's also assume that any future
replacement system is the same quality.
The final assumption is that the replacement system will cost $500,000 per installation (in today's money). If a rigging
system lasts 30 years, the Imperial will
need four systems in 120 years for a total cost of $2 million. If the system lasts
40 years, the Imperial will need three
systems for a total cost of $1.5 million. If
the system lasts for 60 years, as this one
may, the Imperial will need two systems
for a total cost of $1 million. Therefore,
by paying 12.5 percent more for the initial installation, the Imperial saves $1
million. It seems the extra cost would be
well worth the investment.
The counterweight rigging system at
the Imperial is not really a unicorn. Every
system can be like this, provided the
team collaborates to design, install, and
maintain a well-chosen system. However,
as with anything else, we get what we pay
for.
Rick Boychuk is a theatre
technician and designer. He is
also an inventor and owns
the patent for the frontloading arbor and has a
patent pending for an arbor trap, which is
designed to prevent runaway line sets. He
has discovered that new innovations for
counterweight rigging find their foundation
in the history of the technology. Boychuk
continues to explore the spread of the
counterweight rigging system in the United
States in anticipation of releasing a second
volume of Nobody Looks Up: The History
of the Counterweight Rigging System:
1500 to 1925, the only book ever written to
document the history of the counterweight
rigging system. See: www.gridwellinc.com
and www.counterweightrigging.com

SPRING 2021 | THEATRE DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY

| 25


https://www.facebook.com/gridwellinc/ http://www.counterweightrigging.com

Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021

Contents
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - Cover1
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - Cover2
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 1
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - Contents
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 3
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 4
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 5
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 6
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 7
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 8
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 9
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 10
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 11
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 12
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 13
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 14
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 15
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 16
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 17
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 18
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 19
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 20
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 21
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 22
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 23
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 24
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 25
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 26
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 27
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 28
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 29
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 30
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 31
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 32
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 33
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 34
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 35
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 36
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 37
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 38
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 39
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 40
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 41
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 42
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 43
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 44
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 45
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 46
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 47
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 48
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 49
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 50
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 51
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 52
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 53
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 54
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 55
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 56
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - Cover3
Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hickmanbrady/tdt_2021spring_public
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com