Although a theatre designer or director may often wish it otherwise, it is impossible for two pieces of scenery to occupy the same space at the same time. However, as part of their centuries old tradition of doing the impossible (on time and on budget) stage riggers have devised a way to move a flown piece of scenery directly into the space underneath another piece without the show-stopping spectacles of tangled ropes, falling scenery, or crushed actors.

Though achievable with any form of rigging system, this technique, called breasting a batten is most commonly used with the counterweight fly system or one of its mechanized cousins. One drop or scenery piece is flown as normal. Assume for this example you have one piece of scenery flown at lineset #15, about ten feet upstage, but would like a second piece to come into this same position when the other is not being used. The second piece is attached to a nearby batten, perhaps a few feet upstage at lineset #20. This is the load batten, and bears most of the weight. In order to swing this second piece downstage and into the correct position, also attach it to lineset #10. This is the control batten. It controls the location of the piece upstage or downstage. When this line is totally slack, the piece will travel straight up and down just like a normally rigged piece. However, if the rigger flies out the control batten, the tension on the second set of wire ropes will cause the batten to move horizontally across the stage and into place. Well, really it moves sort of diagonally, but the important thing is that it is moving in any direction other than up or down. This is what allows you to slide one piece in under another, in this instance allowing you to have two scenic elements both sit a 10 feet upstage.

When carefully rigged, this will allow two, or perhaps even three pieces of scenery to all be flown into the same position on the stage. One disadvantage is that the use of two battens to move a piece mandates at least two riggers, one for each purchase line. Also, if not rigged carefully, the fully slack cables of the second batten may hang down into the audiences' sightlines.

Part of the Stage Rigging Metanode

Bet this wasn't what you expected to find at this node now was it... :)