OU Theater Division Steps Up Production with CNC Router

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Ohio University’s Theater Division is making advances in its set design with new technology.

This semester the Theater Division of the School of Dance, Film, & Theater has collaborated with the School of Art + Design by utilizing its CNC Router (Computer Numerical Control) to produce a variety of ornate décor for its newest production, The 39 Steps.

Based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 movie, The 39 Steps revolves around a man accompanying an agent who is investigating an organization of spies known as “The 39 Steps.”

When the agent is killed, and the man stands accused of his murder, he goes on the run and attempts to stop the organization of spies with a young woman by his side.

Similar to a printer, the CNC router accepts a digital file into its computer system, tells the router tool how to plot the coordinates of the product, and then proceeds to cut out the shape onto wood or other material, providing both convenience for students and a competitive edge for the theater division.

“Most universities that have a competitive training program in theater technology have access to this type of equipment, so it’s really good that we’re getting on board with it,” says Daniel Denhart, Associate Professor of Production Design and Technology. “To be able to tell potential students that we have access to this kind of technology, really helps them make the decision to come to Ohio University.”

For the scenery of the play, set designer Emmy Weldon, an MFA student majoring in production design, fashioned a large and elaborate ceiling piece that stood 6×10 ft., a task that would have had the crew working for weeks versus the mere hours that it took for the CNC router to produce the piece.

Denhart, also the Technical Director of the production, worked closely with CNC router technician, Tanner Young (School of Art + Design Sculpture & Woodshop Technician), to ensure a fluid communication and experience first-hand the power of the router.

Housed in the School of Art + Design in its own separate room, the CNC router cut more than seven different pieces for the set, each carved out of plywood and then backed with foam by crew members.

The use of the CNC router also coincides with an 1804 Grant awarded to Denhart for the implementation of stage automation technology that will provide the theater division with more freedoms of movement, greater imagination and the ability to develop productions of a larger scope.

The 39 Steps will be performed Feb. 19-22 and Feb. 25-27 at 8 p.m. A matinee show will occur at 2 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 22. Tickets are free to OU students; $10 general admission; $7 non-OU students and senior citizens.

For more information and reservations, call 740-593-1780 or stop by the Fine Arts Ticket Office on campus, located at the East Union Street entrance of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.