Theatre rigging requires hardware and equipment that is specialized for the challenges presented by the stage. Here are a few of the challenges your stage curtain pulley system can expect to face:
6 Challenges For a Stage Curtain Pulley System
1. Hardware must handle both heavy, static weight and rapid, dynamic movement.
Heavy drapery may remain in continuous—but relatively static—use for years. A stage curtain pulley system experiences constant stress from permanent and semi-permanent drapes like valances, legs, cycloramas, and rear travelers (behind a box set) that may rarely move.
At the same time, main drapes, mid travelers, scrims, and pipes loaded with an array of backdrops may need to fly in-and-out quickly and repeatedly throughout daily performances. Time is often ‘of the essence’ during a set change—ideally, they’re so seamless that the audience barely notices.
This requires hardware that’s optimized for both static loads and dynamic motion. Our Ronstan Core Block™ series uses a dual-bearing system that hybridizes both roles. The acetal (or Torlon®) ball bearings minimize friction when speed is a priority, while a robust bushing supports heavier loads right on the central hub.
2. Stage lights will illuminate reflective hardware materials.
In theatre rigging, you never really want your audience to spot the equipment. Reflective steel or aluminum components in a stage curtain pulley system reflect beams from lighting fixtures, distracting the audience from more intentional elements of the setting and performance.
One solution is to rely on stage curtain pulley systems composed of matte black synthetics like acetal, nylon, and other thermoplastics. Another option is to choose black chromed grade 316 steel, like the kind Ronstan uses in our I-Beam Traveler Systems and car bodies. Either way, your blacked-out stage rigging hardware will blend harmlessly into the background.
3. The heat from stage lights can cause problematic thermal expansion or damage.
Steel and plastics often have very different thermal properties. A mismatch in a hot environment can exacerbate friction due to unwanted swelling and expansion in parts of the system. Plastics that aren’t rated for operation under intense heat could also compromise safety, misshaping or failing and dropping curtains.
It’s critical to select equipment for your stage curtain pulley system that is stable and durable in the heat of stage lights, like Torlon® and glass-reinforced nylon.
4. Large, protruding equipment can obscure the path of drops and flown items.
The sleeker the equipment, the better. Your stage curtain pulley system will operate in close quarters, and narrow layers of battens can become problematic (or even dangerous) if pulleys and tracks with poor ergonomics snag on any wide or awkwardly shaped drops.
5. Actors beneath your curtain rig won’t be wearing head protection and may not be vigilant.
All hardware in a stage curtain pulley system should respect at least a 10:1 safety factor to prevent any accidents involving unprotected performers standing or moving beneath the rig, with their attention on other things. Lightweight hardware made with modern synthetic materials can help since it will reduce the overall weight born by the stage rigging system.
All of our stage rigging hardware at Ronstan is load rated with accurate, clearly marked maximum loads—so that you can put safety first when rigging soft goods overhead.
6. Hardware maintenance or lubrication may be rare or difficult to perform.
Depending on the venue and size of the staff, a stage curtain pulley system will operate with little to no maintenance for years at a time. Theatrical flyspace accumulates an incredible buildup of dust from set building, strikes, and more. Unlike in construction, a theatre rigging system may be out of sight, out of mind, no matter how often it is relied upon to perform its duty.
Self-lubricating acetal rollers and ball bearings—like those in Ronstan ball bearing pulleys, our Orbit Block™ series, and our Core Block™ series—can keep the effects of friction to a minimum. The ball bearings are also easy to access for maintenance when the time does come around.