Literally setting the scene for every theatre performance, backdrops are essential. But, the practical solutions used to perform seamless scene changes shouldn’t be underestimated either.
Even if you exclude state-funded companies and opulently equipped city playhouses, the theatre scene in Austria is thriving. One of the most striking examples of that is the project conceived by actors and theatre producers Nikolaus Lechthaler and Rosie Belic. Their private Lechthaler-Belic theatre (Le-Be) in Graz champions humorous high-brow pieces and characteristically understated staging. The theatre has been based in a lovingly renovated former bakery since 2008, has a seating capacity of 80 and features a stage measuring 6 by 6.5 metres. Until now, the theatre has used wooden constructions in its stage technology. However, when a new production arrived that requires very frequent scene changes without the aid of coverage from the curtain, an alternative had to be found.
A very “dramatic” challenge
“I had the idea that a carriage could travel in from the wings to change the backdrop,” explains Lechthaler. But the theatre’s very tight budget was not the only limitation in the search for a solution. On the one hand, stability was essential, as the scenery has to carry the weight of the actors without disrupting their performance. On the other hand, there were personnel issues to consider: “We build everything ourselves and don’t have any handymen or specialist stage hands,” explains Lechthaler. Following the recommendation of a sponsor, the theatre initially considered using a steel solution for the stage technology. However, it soon became clear that would be impractical, as they wouldn’t be able to take the system apart as they wanted to. After a few twists and turns, the same contact helped make the connection with the Graz branch of our Austrian distribution partner, Haberkorn.
Alfons Wernig, head of the profile systems workshop at Haberkorn, immediately spotted the potential and paid a visit to the Lechthaler-Belic theatre, which is famous among the city’s residents. It quickly became clear that two seemingly unrelated areas – technology and theatre – actually make the perfect pair. Naturally, the personal touch also played an important role, as Lechthaler explains: “We simply found we were on the same wavelength. We achieved a lot that day.” Wernig couldn’t agree more: “Everything just slotted into place. And, after all, it isn’t every day you get the chance to build something in the workshop that will be seen by so many people.”
Stage technology builds a bridge between two worlds
During performances of the successful French comedy “Trennung auf Bestellung” (Dump on Demand) written by Tristan Petitgirard, theatre-goers are regularly amazed: “That’s impossible! Where did that come from?” In the darkness of the theatre, the stage rolls in from the side, framed by spotlights and naturally with an actor on board, all in line with the brief. Nobody in such a small theatre expects to see anything like that. The secret to this spectacular and effective performance is a roller guide with chain drive (Linear Unit LRE 8 D14 80×40 KU 80) that has been engineered and built as a mobile stage.
The stage itself is also made from item components. The stage trolley can be moved continuously in both directions on its undercarriage, meaning that the stage appears with a movable structure and then disappears into the side structure shortly thereafter. The system has also been designed so it can be folded to the side at any time. The project was a real highlight for Wernig, too: “It was a great opportunity to see how enthusiastic our staff are. My team even did the planning and building work voluntarily and in their own time.” The team from Haberkorn oversaw the project and carried out maintenance work so that the audience could enjoy the performance without any unexpected high drama from backstage hitches. Further joint projects are already being planned.
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