Delstar Engineering Delivers Giant Automated Scenic Structure

by Jacob Coakley

The steel set piece being constructed.Stage Technologies’ sister company Delstar Engineering supplied a 40-ton, 24-meter-wide by 12-meter-tall by 4-meter-deep set piece for Anne, a new story about the life of Anne Frank at the Theater Amsterdam.

Delstar Engineering supplies 31 tonne scenic structure for the play ANNE at Theater Amsterdam

In December 2013 Stage Technologies’ sister company Delstar Engineering was commissioned to provide a huge scenic structure for the set of ANNE, a new play about the life of Anne Frank. Produced by Imagine Nation, with set design by Bernhard Hammer and directed by Theu Boermans, the play is performed at the new “Theater Amsterdam”, a purpose built venue in the Westerlijke Houthavens district of Amsterdam. The play covers the two years that Anne Frank and her family hide in an attic in Amsterdam, as well as some events prior to their secret life and following their discovery and deportation by the Nazis. The intimate and powerful production not only utilises Anne Frank’s own words from her diary but also plays out against a life-size backdrop of the Frank family’s flat.The audience views a series of projection screens that part to form a proscenium at various times during the play, revealing the three main set elements. The huge yet intimate production is set on a series of wagons, on a 360 degree track. Delstar Engineering designed, fabricated and tested a three-component, 31 tonne moving structure, which represents Merwedeplein (Merwede Square), the neighbourhood in Amsterdam where Otto Frank moved his family when they fled Germany. This steel frame weighs 40 tonnes when clad as the house, and measures 24m wide by 12m tall and four metres deep.

The frame features a vertical moving panel, 10 metres tall by 12 metres wide, which travels 1.8 metres and weighs nine tonnes (metric).Within the structure there are a pair of moving horizontal panels, 3.5metres tall by 12metres wide; these have a combined opening distance of 11 metres. These moving panels are used to reveal the performance space - the inside of the Merwedeplein flat - to the audience.

The vertically moving panel was mechanised using a single helical grooved drum winch, with the horizontal panels using a continuous loop steel wire rope hoist connecting both panels. The entire structure was mounted on a moving platform provided by other contractors.

There were significant time constraints on the production and delivery of the structure. Once awarded the contract Delstar Engineering had a total of just fourteen weeks between the point of order and complete assembly on site, including working over the Christmas period, and a substantial re-design of the set from the creative team eight weeks into the programme, which meant a significant alteration to the main structural base. Project Manager Peter Woods said “The build on site was compressed into eleven days on site, with five lorries of equipment arriving on a planned just-in-time basis, and the other set pieces being assembled in the same space, as the building itself was being finished around us. This required very close co-ordination between the venue’s technical staff, the construction crew and the other contractors. Our fully working and commissioned “Merwedeplein” was handed to the client, by the crew of four, one day ahead of their schedule.”

Lykle Hemminga, Technical producer Imagine Nation said “We are very happy with Peter Woods and his team. Not only during the design-process when we had to change part of the already engineered structure due to artistic reasons but also during the build in Amsterdam when they had to deal with very complex logistics at the building site.”

ANNE is produced by Imagine Nation under the leadership of Robin de Levita and Kees Abrahams, in collaboration with the National Theatre under the artistic leadership of Theu Boermans. The play was written by Jessica Durlacher and Leon de Winter. Bernhard Hammer designed the stage set and Paul M. van Brugge composed the music. Anne opened on 8th May 2014 and the run has been extended until April 2015.

More information

http://www.theateramsterdam.nl/en/

http://www.stagetech.com/projects/DelstarEngineering/ANNE

PHOTO CREDIT - Show photography by Kurt van der Elst