River Campus Orchestra Pit Goes High Tech



Oct. 10, 2007 – When the command is given to raise the orchestra pit in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus, four specially designed motorized chains installed beneath the platform will lift it into place.

For the skeptics that question whether a chain can actually push anything, much less an entire orchestra pit, this is no ordinary chain. The platform is outfitted with a chain lift drive that pushes, rather than pulls like most traditional chains.

The system, called a LinkLift Rigid Chain, is the only system of its type, according to Jeff Lovett, technical director for Southeast’s Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts. The LinkLift system, which is manufactured by Serapid, can lift up to 30,000 pounds over its own weight and moves into place quickly and quietly.

“I’ve worked in a lot of different theatres during my career, and I’ve never come across this type of system before,” Lovett said. “I’ve seen hydraulic, spiral and manual lifts. This is much more state-of-the-art.

“The links of each chain are designed so they can only turn one way as the chain moves the pit into place,” Lovett explains. “When the chain is straight up and down, it locks into place, forming a rigid column to hold the orchestra pit in place. Because there are four chains with two motors driving them, they don’t allow each other to fall,” he said.

“Most theatres have hydraulic lifts, which require shafts to be drilled in the ground. This is much more earthquake resistant,” Lovett added. “The lift system also has built-in safety sensors to prevent accidents. If someone is below or something is caught in it, it will stop moving.”

The platform also can be positioned on four different levels, including the orchestra pit level, or anywhere in between, allowing for maximum versatility from the space.

When performances do not require an orchestra, the pit can be raised to stage level, enlarging the stage size from 40 to 50 feet deep, or lowered to floor level, providing two extra rows of seating, according to Lovett. The orchestra platform also can be lowered past the orchestra pit level to the trap room, a large room under the stage, to access storage or the trap doors in the floor of the stage that are sometimes utilized for performances.

“Everything is multipurpose,” Lovett noted, adding that depending on the level of the orchestra pit, railings can be moved from the front to the back of the platform for safety, and different sets of speakers can be utilized for optimum sound quality.