Category Archives: Bye-Bye Birdie

Rocking, Rolling, Weights and Rigging

I recently had a chance to do some work on a high school (Glacier Peak High School) version of Bye-Bye Birdie.  Since this is probably my last set for them Bill Erickson, and I did some different stuff using sets that rotated and rolled.


Rolling sets are great because you can use multiple sides of a box to accomplish in a say, 8×8 space two or three set pieces.  For imageexample the front of the MacAfee kitchen is also a part of Sweet Apple’s streets… and this not only saves space on the stage but makes from some fun transitions since we just rotate the sets.

Instead of having set pieces flying in and out we have for this production only two sets that fly in from above, the Sweet Apple Train Station and the Penn Station train station in NYC.

Part of the planning for this was done using a special spreadsheet (attached for you) which allows you calculate the weights of set pieces fairly accurately.  It does this by just inputting how many boards, sheet lumber, etc., you have and it kicks out a total for the object.  Rolling pieces like the ones shown above, or fly in flats – this does not of course include hardware (nuts bolts, braces, wheels) but it does feature in the weight of all lumber used which will get you within a few pounds.


Here’s an example based on our Penn Station clock.  For this we used 4 1x3x8 furring strips, or 32 ft. of 1×3’s.  We also used 2 1x4x8 boards, or 16 feet of 1×4’s.  We had a clock which was a four foot circle (4×4 sheet of 5mm luan)= 16 sq. ft.  So our weight for this was approximately 8.25 lbs.

We also added 4 aluminum metal pieces left over from a garden trellis arch which we’ll calculate at around 3 lbs. each, or another 12 lbs. so the weight we needed to compensate on our fly bar was only 21 lbs. give or take – roughly 1 small pig iron weight.

Now, our Sweet Apple train station arches were far more complex, each column was meant to be 12 ft. high, 2 ft. wide, with 6 1/2  feet wide 4 feet tall boxes that fit in between.  Skinned on to this we used 4 sheets of 5.5 mm luan sheeting, and for trim approximately 6 feet of 2×6, and 4 feet of 2x4s, for a total weight of 138.05 lbs..

imageNow, it’s important to keep in mind that when you do weight calculations, 138 lbs. may not seem like a lot but stretch that out over an area of 3×8=24 feet and try to lift it.  It suddenly feels like it’s 4 times that.  Also add to it your hardware, some scabbing and braces for the rear and you could easily have something that takes 4 or 5 people to lift something that two people would have no issues with.  So always use safe lifting practices.

Here’s the spreadsheet I use for

Theatre Weight calcuations Theatre Calculator


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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Bye-Bye Birdie, How To, Resources


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