The stage is built. Lines are memorized. And the roll-drop is ready to go for the Christmas production of “Fruitcakes” at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor, currently showing.
The mechanism allows for fast scene changes and was built by the Central Whidbey Lions Club.
“Rapid scene changes are a must to hold the audience’s attention,” said Jim Rich, Central Whidbey Lions Club member.
According to Rich, the roll-drop offers the Playhouse the ability to add greater diversity and depth to productions. The fabric can be painted and repainted to create “soft scenery” for different productions.
When designing the mechanism for scene changes, the Lions focused on creating something safe to operate and affordable.
A manual drop can be dangerous — especially if operated by inexperienced volunteers, Rich said.
The Lions ended up adapting a tube motor to their own design that only moves when the power is applied, solving the safety issue, he said.
The cost per 20-foot roll-drop mechanism was about $550, significantly less than what those manufactured for professional theater cost, he said.
The roll-drop’s lightweight design — as compared to heftier professional theater systems — is also an advantage, he said. It will allow for the roll-drop to be more easily repositioned.
The Playhouse’s stage gets reconfigured between productions, of which there are about six each year.
“The United States Institute for Theatre Technology is excited about this,” Rich said. “This (design) gives high schools and community theaters who can’t afford to buy from a stage equipment manufacturer the opportunity to build a roll-drop at an affordable price.”
An article written by Rich about the design of the roll-drop will be in the November issue of Sightlines, the publication for USITT members.
The Central Whidbey Lions Club also helped build the set for the “Fruitcakes” performance.