A Jig for Cutting Ellipses

Michael Parrella

For the Boston University School for Theater Arts’ production of The House of Bernarda Alba, the set design was very simple — principally a large, elliptical raked deck. The ellipse’s major and minor axes measured 32′-0″ and 26′-0″, respectively. The major axis sat at a 30° angle to the stage centerline, but the slope of the rake was parallel to the centerline. To speed up load-in, I decided to build the deck of as many 4x8 platforms as possible that could be installed parallel to the centerline. The most straightforward construction approach was to lay out and cut the ¾″ plywood skins and then frame the platforms. Still, cutting an ellipse of that size was a challenge.


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