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Technical Design Solutions for Theatre by Don Harvey, Ben Sammler

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A Telescoping Fire Pole

Chris Weida

What better way for a fireman to enter the scene in a farce than by sliding down a fire pole that has just come plunging through the ceiling of the set? None, apparently, for that’s exactly how the script describes the action in Pave1 Kouhout’s Fire in the Basement. But what if the fire pole needs to be over 20′ long and there’s only 9′ of usable headroom above the set? Dennis Dorn and Chuck Mitchell faced that exact problem in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 1991 production of the play. Figure 1 at the right offers an overview of their solution: a telescoping fire pole that is extended rather than simply flown in.

The rig they designed included a pneumatic cable cylinder mounted above the set, and ...

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