|In order to make a platform with two front-corner
wings appear as if it was floating, Yale School of Drama graduate student
Andrew Plumer created this 3-D beam design (upper left) with ALGOR’s
Superdraw III finite element modeling tool and then performed linear
static stress analysis on it (lower right) to verify its sturdiness.
(Model courtesy of Andrew Plumer, Yale University School of Drama.)
YALE UNIVERSITY SELECTED ALGOR FOR STUDENTS TO DESIGN AND ANALYZE THEATRICAL SETS
In the theater, realistic scenery helps actors bring an author’s work to
life by placing them in the world of the story. What would A Midsummer Night’s
Dream be without a forest, or Romeo and Juliet without a balcony?
Students in the Yale University School of Drama’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
program for Technical Design and Production learn how to apply technology to the
art of simulating dramatic settings. With only eight weeks to work on each
production, students must budget for, draft and build designs that unite
technical and aesthetic concerns to best represent surroundings for the players.
In order to streamline the design workflow, Yale students use ALGOR software to
model and analyze their designs.
For a production of The People vs. The God of Vengeance staged in the
Yale Repertory Theatre in Spring 2000, MFA student Andrew Plumer faced the
challenge of creating a platform that appeared to be floating, with a wide
center section and a wing in each of the front corners of the stage. "The
scenic designer [Tobin Ost] didn’t really want to see any support
structure," Plumer said. "And the tricky part is that the only way in
and out of the Repertory Theatre is through a door that’s 4 feet by 9 feet, 6
inches – every piece of the set has to fit through that door, so it’s not
all one, solid piece."
Plumer learned to use the ALGOR software for Windows NT workstations, as well
as AutoCAD modeling software, in his program’s biannual Finite Element
Analysis (FEA) class. For this project, he created an FEA model consisting
solely of 3-D beam elements with ALGOR’s Superdraw III finite element
model-building tool. Plumer then performed linear static stress analysis on
several design iterations.
|The platform for The People vs. The God of
Vengeance spanned the stage and included a wing in each front corner,
and it was constructed and lit to appear as if the entire structure were
floating. "It was largely successful once it was lit for the
performance. You couldn’t really see the legs from the audience,"
according to platform designer Andrew Plumer. (Photo courtesy of Eugene
The main design consideration was for the weight of the structure. The
platform and substructure had to be lightweight for construction manageability
and because most of the material would be suspended to simulate floating, but
they still needed to be sturdy so actors would feel safe and the structure would
Plumer explained that, "Optimization is a new science to theater
engineering," when describing the loading applied to this design. On this
platform there would be at most four performers, two in the center and two on
either of the wings for a fairly even weight distribution. The design criterion
used was L-over-360 for deflection in the center of the span, and Plumer
anticipated 300 pounds on the wings and 300 pounds per person at various
locations in the center, using distributed loads to mimic the
pounds-per-square-foot loading he needed to exert on the structure.
Plumer considered the worst stresses and the deflection in evaluating
analysis results for the worst scenario. His final model predominantly used 1½"
by 16-gauge steel box tube for the upper platform, 2" or 3" by 1/8"
long structural steel box tube for anything vertical and smaller trussing
members of 1" or 1½"
steel box tube to fit between the structure’s legs. "There was a center
span with four independent trusses bolted together with cross trusses; two side
‘wings’, which were separate pieces about a foot thick each; and the
superstructure, legs and such, with four or five pieces for each side of the
stage, all bolted and welded together on site. The structure’s total weight
was about 2000 pounds."
|This black and white composite shows scenes from The
People vs. The God of Vengeance arranged to illustrate how Plumer’s
platform seemed to be floating over the stage for the performance.
(Background photo courtesy of Eugene Yang; superimposed performance
photos, stage and platform levels, courtesy of T. Charles Erickson.)
In regard to how ALGOR helped him design the "floating" platform
for The People vs. The God of Vengeance, Plumer said, "It was
largely successful once it was lit for the performance. You couldn’t really
see the legs from the audience." He also said that ALGOR aided him in
designing theatrical sets able to be loaded through the narrow doorways so often
found in theaters. "ALGOR helps you break set designs down into manageable
pieces – I think no one piece weighed more than a couple hundred pounds."