Automation at Cirque

I haven't posted in a week, because I've just completed the most hellish semester ever.  But I'm cleaned up from my Memorial Day BBQ, and now have a bit of a backlog of stuff I want to post here.  So let's get started with a Cirque du Soleil update, and some very interesting information from Mike Brister.

I've known about this through friends for a  long time, but now it's public: The New York Times is reporting that Cirque will be doing not one, but two semi-permanent shows here in NYC.

In February 2010 Cirque, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, plans to bring a new show to the Beacon Theater in Manhattan for a multiple-month run that it hopes will become an annual institution. And in 2011 Cirque is to establish a four-month summer extravaganza in Radio City Music Hall as a warm-weather counterweight to the “Christmas Spectacular” — sans Rockettes, but populated with acrobats and clowns.

Cirque had been seeking a permanent home here, but I think these shows are a great solution from the guys at Madison Square Garden Entertainment.

About a year ago, I was in Vegas and got to watch Cirque's Love from the automation control room; I wrote up my experiences here.  And now I'm a bit late linking to Mike Brister's blog (and thanks to Andrew Atienza for the tip), where he has a great write up of the basics of scenic automation, and, in particular, the technologies and techniques backstage at Love .  From his blog:

At "The Beatles LOVE", I am part of a crew of 12 Automation Technician's responsible for the maintenance and nightly show operation of 122 automation elements including 20 moving stage parts (12 vertical lifts, 4 over-sized trap doors, 2 horizontal moving stage floor parts, and 2 "pop up book"-style set pieces), 13 trolleys suspended on 9 ceiling tracks (7 trolleys can also rotate and 4 can travel as fast as 10' per second), 6 large format moving video screens (4 can change shape and retract into the ceiling), 43 cable winches (32 ride on the trolleys with 2 or 4 to each trolley), and 12 scrims (huge sheer curtains that we project video on). The bulk of the show's automation is made up by the lifts and trolleys. The lifts create the entire surface of the stage and allow us to change it's shape, add multiple levels, or create different sized openings in it. The trolleys, which behave similarly to small gantry cranes, are used to suspend almost all of the flying people and set pieces in the show. 

Read the whole entry here for some very interesting info, and I commend Cirque for allowing Mr. Brister to write this up.