Perception---you have that power.

There is purpose in design. There is information in a setting. There is truth in your environment. Fake or real, it's there.

All images are copyrighted by Heidi Hoffer unless otherwise indicated. Your courtesy in using my photographs must include crediting me as the photographer. You must tell me when and where you've used them and send the link to me showing your use of them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pretoria's Magnificent Aula Theatre: In the Middle of Rennovation

The Aula Theatre at the University of Pretoria

The Aula Theatre was designed by Karel Joost in 1951, and built between the years of 1956 and 1958. It has 1012 seats and was the major opera venue in Gauteng until the State Theatre was built in the early 1980’s.
Leon Pienaar did a sketchup model of the theatre based on Joost’s plans in 2008. One can find it on Goodgle 3D Warehouse along with other University of Pretoria buildings.

You can see the fly tower is huge, and the glass fronted lobby brings a lot of natural light.
 Currently the Aula is going through some massive upgrades so much so that I was able to hold a lighting workshop with their brand new ETC Sensor dimmers in March before anyone could use them. The renovation continues with the lighting bars being installed on motorized winches, and a new roof and lobby upgrades. I encourage you to click on the photos below to enlarge them in order to appreciate the detail.

A lighting designer sitting in the house seats would look house left to see a rather large Reiger pipe organ that takes up prime lighting location real estate. I have been told the organ gets played once a year. It is getting a computer assisted something or other to make it even better.

The photo shows the house left side of the Aula theatre auditorium featuring the Reiger organ. The theatre’s designer was not concerned about lighting angles or positions. If you look above the audience seats at the ceiling, you see the spines or fins that support the roof but also get in the way of angles for lighting positions.
The stage is completely empty now because they have been working on the rigging. This theatre used to house operas until the Pretoria State Theatre was built. It looks huge, doesn't it? The front view of the stage shows how magnificent the space is. It is certainly not a dark theatre. The lighting desk in the blond wooden box dead center because the designers and technicians abandoned the original lighting control room for the better viewing angle.
The close-up of the Reiger organ shows how huge it is. I would really love to play it! (I got to play the organ at the Masonic Temple in Guthrie, Oklahoma…)
The Aula Theatre runs its lights from an ETC lighting desk. Johnnie Heinemann, Facilities Manager, is looking into upgrading to an ION or an EOS. It was very nice to find ETC equipment at the University of Pretoria.
In fact, the Aula theatre has brand new ETC Sensor dimmers! Pictured here are the old dimmers, and pictured below are the new ETC Sensor dimmers which take up a lot less space.

The view of the Aula theatre’s auditorium from the stage gives you a fair idea of what more than 1000 seats looks like. You can see the FOH lighting positions are just rectangular slots in the ceiling. Trust me when I say they are scary to get to, and even worse to work with. This access is something that is addressed in the Aula’s renovation.

The fly gallery photo shows four operating levels. Handlines are on one level up, and the motorized lighting bar winches are on an upper level. The lighting bars have been lowered to proscenium height in this photo.
In this photo of the rope locks for the linesets, you can appreciate how tight the flyspace is from upstage to downstage. Below are great details of a rope lock and the take-up sheaves.
Rope lock at the Aula Theatre
Take-up sheaves at the Aula Theatre
Just looking at the hemp control rope made me look around for gloves…
The electric winches are used for the electric bars and run from this unit on the flyrail level.  The winches themselves are up above on another level and look like this:
 And below 1is a close-up of one of the winches with the aircraft cable wrapped around its drum.

This photo above is the view of the Aula stage from the middle fly gallery position.I was standing above the proscemium but below the top fly height looking stage right when I took this picture.

And you get to the various fly galleries by climbing up this long ladder. This photo is from the bottom of the ladder.

I’ll close this blog post with a photo of the Aula team and myself. From left to right: Mark White of ETC Europe, Johnnie Heinemann, Heine Grobler, Heidi Hoffer, Hein Zentgraf of T&A Lighting/Prosound, Boy Magnussen of T&A Lighting/Prosound, and Ian Blair the General Manager of T&A Lighting/Prosound.  I really appreciated being able to interview the team members, and be shown around the Aula Theatre in the middle of its renovation. Photo was taken by Phuti.

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