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EJ Thomas Hall - Lighting the Counterweights | Case Study

On the campus of University of Akron, EJ Thomas Hall features a unique movable auditorium ceiling, aided by a counterweight system in its lobby. VLS illuminated this interesting counterweight display.


Opened in October 1978 on the University of Akron’s campus, EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall is a three-level auditorium, featuring a seating capacity of 2,955. One of the focal points of the building is the movable 44-ton ceiling, which can close off either the Flying Balcony or both the Flying Balcony and Grand Tier creating a one, two or three level auditorium.

Located in Goodrich Lobby and weighing in excess of 40 tons are the 27 chrome Witzman Counterweights which balance the ceiling in the house and are computer controlled. The configuration of the counterweights determines the position of the ceiling in the house. The entire transformation takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The theatre has the ability of being used in its standard configuration or converted into a symphony hall with the erection of an orchestra shell.


Wanting to highlight this unique feature of the venue, VLS Project Designer, Steve Arnold designed the lighting for a permanent installation, so that — no matter which of the three positions the counterweights were in (ceiling high, ceiling mid or ceiling low), the lighting would create an interesting look. Steve added a gobo projection fixture, to project the EJ Thomas logo, as well as any image or logo for corporate events, school graduations or other special occasions.


Steve chose ETC Source 4WRD spots, along with ETC ColorSource Spots to illuminate the counterweights and their rigging system. “Because the building is poured concrete and the heights of the fixtures vary from 25′ to 70, I choose to utilize a wireless control system,” he explained. Steve selected an ETC ColorSource Relay wireless DMX system and an EchoTouch screen with a wireless interface, so that the staff can call up presets with their phones or tablets.

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