When you go to a theatrical performance, you probably aren’t thinking about the mechanical devices necessary to make the performance come alive. When you’re planning and directing that performance, however, the “behind the scenes” equipment often become as important to the show as the performers themselves.
That is why an upgraded stage elevator lift in Pote Theatre will transform productions for Theatre Simpson as well as the Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO).
Michael Egel, general and artistic director of DMMO is excited about the new equipment.
“An evening at the opera should be magical,” Egel said. “The stage elevator lift at the Blank Performing Arts Center has allowed Des Moines Metro Opera to create a unique brand of theatrical magic for 45 years now.”
Located in the front of the orchestra pit, the lift occupies the semi-circular area closest to the front row of the audience, a space referred to as the “playing circle.” It allows scenery, props and sometimes, even characters to be delivered quickly and discretely to the stage, often without the audience even noticing.
In addition to making audience members feel like they are being transported to another time and place, the lift also has practical applications such as shortening scene changes.
“It was an original part of the theatre when it was built but over time, it’s slowed down and gotten a little noisy, making it a bit more difficult to incorporate into productions,” said Jennifer Ross Nostrala, professor of theatre arts at Simpson College. “The new lift will allow our theatre students the opportunity to experiment with techniques and learn how something like this can really enhance a performance both practically and artistically.”
The “magical” part of the equipment is what most interests Egel.
“From an artistic standpoint, the lift is a goldmine of inspiration for designers and directors to create effects that simply can’t be replicated in any other theatre,” Egel said.
“Last season, the lift area opened up to serve as the dramatic gates to Hades with demons clawing their way to earth in the Greek myth of Orpheus.” (Photo attached)
“For the summer of 2017, the elevator lift will allow DMMO to turn the theatre into a British Naval ship of the 18th century by creating the illusion of ‘below deck’ and ‘above deck’ spaces for Herman Melville and Benjamin Britten’s nautical epic Billy Budd,” Egel continued.
The lift was made possible by a generous contribution from a long-time Simpson College faculty member Virginia Croskery Lauridsen and her husband Nix Lauridsen.
“The stage elevator lift allows us to underscore the one-of-a-kind design of the Pote Theatre by adding these unique theatrical effects that can only be seen in the Simpson facility,” Egel said.
“There is no other space like it in America.”