By: Donna J. Flor
It’s time for another test of your ability to speak “tech.” Like all professions, theatre technicians have their own language. Do you know these terms? They all refer to different aspects of technical theatre, and they all start with “P.”
Proscenium: This is the area between the stage and auditorium that “frames” the performance for the audience. It’s a Latin word from a Greek original that translates loosely as “in front of the stage.”
You’ll sometimes see this term as “proscenium arch,” although prosceniums in modern theatres may or may not have an arched construction.
Jackson Hall’s proscenium is 49-1/2’ wide. The sides are constructed of the beautiful Douglas fir that makes the seating area so lovely. The height can vary from 20’ to 38-1/2’, based on the set-up needed for specific shows.
Pinrail: This is one of many things that technical theatre has borrowed from the nautical rigging world. Pinrails were very important in the days when theatres used hemp ropes to raise and lower the pipes over the stage that scenery and lights were hung on. The hemp ropes were tied off at the pinrail once pipes were set at the correct height.
These days, modern theatres are constructed with some type of counterweight rigging system for the overstage pipes. But pinrails are usually still incorporated in venues for times when temporary or custom rigging is needed.
A pinrail is normally a large metal pipe that has holes to insert belaying pins vertically. It is typically long enough to run the entire length of the stage from the proscenium to the back wall.
Jackson Hall has two pinrails that are 36’ above the stage floor.
PAR: PAR stands for “parabolic aluminum reflector,” and is often paired with “can.” PAR can refers to a certain type of lighting instrument.
The Mondavi Center has 80 PARs made by ETC in its lighting inventory. They each have 575-watt light bulbs, plus an array of glass lenses that we can swap out to create very narrow, narrow, medium, or wide beams of light.
Before the creation of computer-controlled moving lights, PAR cans were standard for concert lighting. A show during that time could easily have 200 - 300 of them in the lighting design.
We’ll continue to explore more of the language of technical theatre in future posts. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve heard any tech terms that you would like to have “translated.”
Author Bio: Donna J. Flor is the Production Manager at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis. Beginning as a freelance lighting designer, stage manager, and stagehand, she has since worked exclusively in production management of roadhouse theatres for the past 30 years. After assisting with the grand opening of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, in 1994, she spent 17 years there leading the Technical Production Department. In 2011, Donna helped open the acclaimed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. She and her husband Kirk are most proud of Jake, their canine son.