Sand du Plessis Theatre
Sand du Plessis Theatre
The venue was designed as a multi-purpose theatre for Bloemfontein.
The auditorium of the Sand du Plessis Theatre is unique in South African theatre architectural design. Provided with continental seating (no centre aisle), and separate entrances for various rows, the auditorium has no distinct balcony but is divided into four staggered seating areas, each giving its occupants a sense of intimate surroundings, while together (viewed from the stage) giving the impression of space and majesty.
The auditorium has 964 seats, distributed as follows:
| Orchestra pit
(Removed when the pit is in use)
For smaller productions, the auditorium can be subdivided by hanging a curtain, which decreases the number of seats to approximately 450.
The walls of the auditorium are covered with acoustically designed embuia panels, which, as part of their acoustic function, imbue the space with warmth and visual interest.
The colours of the wooden material covering the seats, the vinyl floor covering and the main stage curtain, have been chosen to blend with the embuia panels. Together they create an interesting visual effect.
A guest area in the centre of the auditorium is served by a private lounge behind it, leading to the main foyer.
The sound and lighting control rooms are situated at the rear of the stalls area and have a perfect view of the stage. Another unique design feature is that a duplicate sound control desk has been installed in the centre balcony area above the sound control room to enable operators working on musical shows to be in direct contact with the environmental sound present in the auditorium during such performances. This obviates the need for the removal of seats when such an open sound desk is required.
Situated in the ceiling are the usual light bridges and follow spot galleries. In the wall panels and above the proscenium are loudspeakers for sound effects, amplification and cinema sound. The theatre is equipped with the latest sound equipment.
The Stage Area
The stage is designed as a stereotype cross stage, with wing and rear stage areas serving the central performance area, and a forestage which, by means of the raising or lowering of its four lights, can also serve as an orchestra pit seating up to 100 musicians, or, at auditorium floor level, to seat 50 theatre goers.
Speed and ease of scene changes were a priority in the design of the stage and to this end, it is equipped with a 15m x 15m moveable stage lift divided into five independent stage lifts of 3m x 15m each. These five double-floor stage lifts can be used singly or coupled in groups of two to five and can move to any level from 3,9m above the stage to 4,4m below stage level. The main floor of each lift can be raked to a maximum slope of 7 degrees. Coupled together they can provide a raked playing area with an incline of 5,6 degrees.
Five side-stage wagons can be moved across, up and downstage independently or together. These stages are electro–mechanically propelled by power in the grooved stage, obviating the need for trailing cables and are controlled from the main computerized mechanist’s desk above the stage.
The single backstage wagon, housing a double revolve, can be moved downstage and lowered on the five coupled stage lifts, thereby creating the main revolving stage. The revolving stage is unique in that it requires no drive motors, but forms its own magnetic field, ensuring noiseless operation.
All stage wagons can be lowered to a level of 3,9m below stage level for storage. The side and back stages may be cut off from the main playing area by means of sound barriers similar to the iron fire curtain separating the stage from the auditorium. When the rear sound barrier is raised, a 45 square metre deep playing area is created.
The 11-story high tower above the stage ranks amongst the highest in the world and is the highest in South Africa. This also contributes to facilitate the scene changing, as well as providing storage space for flown scenery necessary during a repertoire season. Fifty nine electro-mechanically operated stage decor battens in the backstage area are provided to cover all production requirements.
By setting up a specially designed acoustic shell on the downstage area, the theatre may be transformed into a concert hall. The acoustic shell prevents sound from disappearing into the side stage and stage tower. Adjustable reflectors above the sides of the orchestra pit reflect sound into the auditorium very successfully.
Traditionally, while the public areas of theatres world-wide have been spectacular and luxurious, the facilities for the performers tended to be minimal, if not totally non-existent. This situation has been remedied in the newest South African theatres and it might be said to have reached its zenith in the Sand du Plessis Theatre.
The dressing rooms are the finest in the country and are situated on three floors immediately alongside the stage. There are 26 dressing rooms for 78 artists, which can be supplemented by using dressing rooms in the interleaving rehearsal block.
The six star suites (there are three) each have private bathrooms, as well as lounges equipped with closed-circuit television. The remaining dressing rooms have toilet and shower facilities as well as adjustable air-conditioning units. A green room with kitchen and toilet facilities is situated on each floor. Other facilities on these floors include:
- two saunas,
- a large make-up room and
- a wig room.
The Sand du Plessis Theatre Overview
|Artistic policy||Symphonies, musicals, music revues, rock, cabarets, dance/music extravaganzas, ballets, dramas, pantomimes, fashion shows.|
|Stage||Refer to sketch|
|Fitted with||Front tabs, black surround, fly bars, lighting bars, point hoists, 1 x revolve wagon, 4 x side stage wagons, 5 x stage lifts|
|Lighting console||ADB Vision 10|
|Sound console||Midas Legend|
|Auditorium seating capacity||964 (including rows AA and BB)|
|Catering facilities||Licensed bar facilities, vending machines with softdrinks, chips and sweets.|