Located at Winona State University (WSU) in Minnesota, the 425-seat Vivian Fusillo Theatre is the main performance venue for the Department of Theatre & Dance and large ensembles of the Department of Music. Annually, there are six to eight plays, dance performances, and over 20 music concerts held at this venue. The Vivian Fusillo Theatre is also the primary performance space for the Great River Shakespeare Festival and the Frozen River Film Festival.
The goal of the project was to replace the counterweight rigging system that had been installed in the 1970s. Challenges included adding motorized hoists to a rigging system that did not originally include them, while still leaving room for manual counterweight line sets. Raising new equipment to a grid with a low plaster ceiling also required a special set-up hoist. It was important to be mindful of the clearances between the fire curtain line shaft, the proscenium wall, and the first manual counterweight line set. The original building steel (head beams and grid well channels) were sizes that were no longer in production, so the loft block and head block clips needed to be carefully sized. The counterweight assist motors needed to be located and secured to the concrete below three layers of wood flooring. Lastly, there were existing obstructions on the stage walls and gridiron, such as fire suppression pipes and electrical junction boxes.
To update the counterweight rigging system, Thern Stage Equipment provided Brickhouse™ arbors and rope locks, as well as head, loft, and floor blocks, which were verified for fit and function. This was completed while reusing the original 1970s steel tee guide wall. Additionally, there were two line shaft hoists, two counterweight assist hoists, and a fire curtain line shaft hoist with a hydraulic descent governor installed. This project also incorporated an 8XFS positioning control system, which has a touchscreen and positioning capabilities on the two line shafts and two counterweight assists. A custom davit crane was built to get heavy materials (like the line shaft motors and drums) up to the gridiron.
With a modernized theater rigging system, students and staff can have peace of mind knowing that the venue has updated, high-quality equipment that will ensure optimal performances for years to come. Thern Stage Equipment was proud to complete this project as an in-kind donation to help the local university in their home city. The entire community benefits from the richly varied theater, dance, and musical events produced by WSU throughout the year.