Flexible Performance Equipment

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The variety of events held on a university campus – including performing arts, athletics and academics – requires flexible equipment that can easily adapt for different needs. At Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind., the acoustical shell and staging platforms both fit this criteria.

When Clowes Memorial Hall opened over 40 years ago, it was originally conceived for grand opera and home for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.  There was a custom-built acoustical shell onstage that was easy to fly in and out from the rigging system.

“While it had fantastic acoustics, we really couldn’t change our old shell very much,” explains executive director Elise Cushigian.  “It lacked certain flexibility as Broadway and opera required more line sets.”  Visually, the shell’s large size also overwhelmed a chamber orchestra or soloist.

The biggest reasons Butler University added a Forte™ shell from Wenger were flexibility and increasing the intimacy for the audience.  The shell can adjust to suit the artist – whether a chamber orchestra, solo performer or full orchestra.

“Forte is an outstanding, off-the-shelf acoustical shell that made sense from a budget standpoint,” explains Cushigian.

Associate professor of music Richard A. Clark has experienced the new shell as a director and musician onstage, as well as an audience member.  “The Forte shell really helps bring out all the colors of the orchestra,” he notes.  “Even in a dense orchestration you can still hear the individual sounds, colors and rhythms.”  Clark adds that musicians can also hear better onstage.

Because the hall is heavily scheduled, the Forte shell is often reconfigured up to three times per day. “It’s exceeded our expectations, including ease of operations,” explains John Lucas, stage technician first electrician.  The shell can put it up in under 20 minutes and reconfiguring goes even faster.

The full setup is five back towers, four towers on each side and four ceiling panels.  The smallest setup – nine towers in a semicircle with no ceiling panels – is used for a lecture series.

Lucas says every musical presentation with this shell also has at least two or three Versalite risers from Wenger Corp.  These elevated platforms are also used around campus in all kinds of configurations, including in lecture halls or the 12,000-seat Hinkle Fieldhouse, site of university basketball games. When Butler hosts basketball tournaments, Versalite is used to make a stage for one team’s pep band.

Butler has 4’x 8’ and 3’ x 6’ platforms, with leg heights of 8”, 16” and 42”.

“The Versalite is much easier to handle than our other platforms,” says Lucas.  “And the bright aluminum gives it a nice, modern look.”

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