Fresno State’s John Wright Theatre receives upgrades

The John Wright Theatre at Fresno State has made safety upgrades that were completed in a five-month period and resulted in a $150,000 cost.

From May to September, contractors worked to complete the renovations in two phases. Most of the work was done over the summer in order to lessen the impact of renovations during the regular academic year, according to Tinnah Medina, associate vice president for facilities management.

“There’s student safety that’s being taught as part of the theater productions through the College of Arts and Humanities,” said Medina. “So these are all safety mechanisms to properly teach students in the world of theater, and this is an extension of a classroom laboratory.”

The Wright Theatre safety upgrade proved to be a difficult project to work on due to its technicality and specialization, according to Medina.

Most theaters and buildings on campus are about 50 to 60 years old, which can be challenging, she said.

“There are other areas we’re looking at, and part of it is assessing, scoping and finding the funds,” said Medina. “For the Wright Theatre, we’re in pretty good shape.”

There were three elements in the safety upgrades: the rigging, the fly loft and an acoustical fire curtain.

The rigging

The rigging is the back of the house where all the lights, curtains and props are hung. The main objective was to replace all the bolts and rebuild the rigging. The rigging has 38 lines and is a pulley system that’s about 50 feet high. The cable lines had to be taken apart and replaced with new metals including bolts and cables.

The light bridge was removed and an electric line was added in order to drop the lighting line down. The light bridge before required students to climb up and go across dangerously in order to hang things. This now prevents students from having to climb.

The fly loft

Above the audience, certified and trained students go above the fly loft on a production night and are required to navigate across beams in order to manipulate the lights. New safety restraints were put in so it would create a safe environment for the students that go above. Thirty planks were added and are laid on a designated pathway as well as cable guides.

The fire curtain

The 60-year-old curtain had to be taken down and fabricated from the East Coast. It had to be replaced in case of a fire on either side, the stage or the audience.

Three safety mechanisms were added. An electric motor winch was added in order to lower the curtain. Heatrise sensors were installed that put the curtain down when they detect a certain heat temperature. The third element is the safety pull, an emergency manual release that can be used in case of a smoke incident. It didn’t have the features of automatic life safety, according to Medina.

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