Central Whidbey Lions member prints article about roll-drop

A mechanism built by the Central Whidbey Lions Club to allow for fast scene changes at the Whidbey Playhouse is gaining far-reaching attention.

Jim Rich led a Lions Club project that created a roll-drop for the Christmas production of “Fruitcakes” at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor.

An article by Rich about the design of his motorized device was approved and appears in the February issue of Sightlines, the publication for United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) members.

“It was like submitting a scientific journal,” said Rich, 72, who lives in Coupeville.

Rich’s device is more light-weight and much less expensive than roll-drops used in professional theater systems. The cost for the 20-foot mechanism is about $550 compared to several thousand dollars for ones used in professional theaters.

The driving force behind the project’s design was to allow for a scene change within 15 seconds.

“We did better than that,” he said. “We did it in 12.”

Rich’s article includes a “how-to technical bulletin” that shows all the details of how to make the roll-drop.

He said he hopes the Lions Club project will be useful for other community theaters or high schools interested in building their own device at an affordable price.

“It was just an idea I thought would be useful to share,” said Rich, who has an engineering background. “I don’t have any desire to try and build some or make any money.”


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