The following nine-minute video was presented as evidence of the failure of the Gagnon Laforest "Vertilift" hydraulic fly system installed in 1983 in Richmond's Virginia Center for the Performing Arts.  The theatre was renamed the Carpenter Center in 1985.

To watch the video, click here.

Appearing in the video are IATSE Local 87 stagehands, Ray Hayden (flyman), Jimmy Dean (Steward and M.E.), Rick McCormick, Earl Butler, and Darryl Ransome.  Thanks to Brad and Blake Joblin for dubbing and restoring the tape.

A typical Vertilift pipe batten is indicated in the photo below.  Each batten lifting point was a sheave, and the double-purchase sets could lift 1500 pounds.

Gagnon's bread and butter was material handling, and theatrics began as a sideline, their future intentions so vague that only ship's rigging is  represented in their 1979 Theatre Crafts ad.

This photograph, taken by House Man Tim Posey, gives one a good view of the horror show GALA, Peter Frink, and architect Fred Cox had going there.

One of the first house fixes was to remove the double-purchase feature from the House Traveler, because the maximum system speed was too slow.  To accommodate the weight of the traveler, two battens were married, as shown below.  In 1989, Hoffend & Sons was selected to install conventional C/W sets for the House Valance and Main Rag.  The sets marked below as Electrics also contained massive acoustical shell ceilings were tandem sets, lifted by two sets of cables and two drive units.

Gagnon Laforest was also known as GALA and PACO and the Vertilift system was specified by theatre consultant Peter Frink. 
Unfortunately for the theatre, by the time the case came to court, the statute of limitations had expired. 

The system was finally removed from service in December, 2004 when the theatre (now the Richmond Centerstage Carpenter Theatre) closed for renovations.  


A completely different type hydraulic fly system was introduced in 1970 called HYDRA FLOAT.   Click here to see that brochure.

December 2016