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Wiltern Theatre: backstage

3790 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90005  | map |

Pages about the Wiltern: history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | backstage | house basement areas | booth and attic |



The view onto the empty stage from the balcony. Photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. The photo originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page. The event was the August 2014 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the theatre. Thanks, Wendell!

The LAHTF is actively involved in the study and preservation of the many vintage theatres in the Los Angeles area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings. www.lahtf.org | LAHTF on Facebook



Backstage at the Wiltern. It's a 2014 Hunter Kerhart photo. Keep up with his many explorations on the website HunterKerhart.com and on the Facebook page for Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography. Thanks for all the great photos, Hunter!


Proscenium width: about 54'

Stage depth: Originally a 26' deep vaudeville-style stage, it got a 40' wide x 30' high hole cut in the backwall for an extension bringing the total depth to 40'. The extension has a grid the same height as that in the original stagehouse. Further expansion wasn't possible due to a driveway behind the theatre leading down into the basement parking garage.

Stage deck: The height of the stage was raised two feet in 2002 to improve sightlines after the terracing of the main floor.

Orchestra pit: Originally it was a small vaudeville-sized pit for about 12 musicians. During the 1984-85 renovations it was enlarged back underneath the stage (Bayreuth style) to make it big enough for an opera orchestra of 50. The pit got covered over during the 2002 renovations when the main floor was terraced.

Lifts: The pit never had one but the organ did, on the stage right side of the pit.

Counterweight system: Operated stage right at stage level. It's an installation done by Hoffend & Sons in 1985, replacing the rather skimpy initial installation in 1931 by Armstrong-Powers Studios. There are 56 linesets. 50 were installed in 1985, 6 added later.

House Mix position:
During the 1984-85 restoration the initial operator, Bill Graham Presents, insisted on a mix position at the front of the balcony. In 1991 it was relocated to a more rational position at the rear of the main floor and the balcony seating was filled in.

Dimmers: The original Major five scene pre-selective resistance board was downstage right. It got replaced in 1984-84 with new dimmers in the basement. Control is either downstage right or at the house mix position.The stage portion of the system is a Colortran rack with 192 2.4 Kw dimmers.

Sound: It's a JBL VerTec system installed in 2001. It's had several upgrades since then.

Company Switches: 2 600A 3 phase for lights , 1 200A 3 phase for sound on an isolation transformer, 60A at the loading door.

Loading: Upstage left



Downstage right -- the former dimmerboard area. The dimmerboard came out in 1984 to make room for newer tech equipment. The blue rack at left is sound and video gear. Deep in the nook are worklight controls, an intercept panel for front-of-house lighting circuits and, on the right side, company switch lug boxes for connection of portable dimmers.

The doorway at the right gets you to the basement dressing room areas or into the auditorium. At the far right we see a bit of the pinrail and lockrail area. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



The stage right wall of the original stagehouse. The stagehouse extension is out of the frame to the right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014. Head to the Historic Theatre Photography section of Mike's website for his full Wiltern Theatre set as well as hundreds of other theatre photos. The Wiltern set is also on Flickr. You can also pay him a visit on the Historic Theatre Photography Facebook page.



Looking upstage along the lockrail. That doorway in the upstage wall we see leads to the lockrail area for the 1984-85 stage extension. Upstage had to jog in a bit as there's an exit passage along the side of the theatre. Note the raised height of the stage -- up 2' from the original level. The deck was installed in 2002 to compensate for the change in sight lines resulting from the terracing of the main floor. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



The view across from upstage right. The column in the foreground is the line of the original back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



Across from stage left. Note the stub wall sticking out between the two sections of counterweight system T-wall. That's the theatre's original back wall. At the left, we're looking at a liner on the back of the asbestos curtain. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



The view into the house. Over on stage right is the control area, in the alcove formerly occupied by the dimmerboard. Dimmers installed during the 1984-85 renovation are in the former clapper room directly underneath. Stage left we see the edge of an elevator to the basement, installed to meet handicap requirements. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



Another look across from stage left -- with a peek into the house. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014



The view across from stage right. That bump out above is for 2nd and 3rd floor dressing rooms. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014



The view backstage from the main floor. The main floor utilized the original slope and had theatre seats re-installed during the 1984-85 restoration. The flat terraces you see are the result of a 2002 renovation project. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



Basement stage right: the dimmer room. We're underneath the nook offstage right where the dimmerboard used to be. This room, the clapper room, held a bank of relays to switch various stage and house lighting circuits. In the center are two switchboard sections for stage power distribution and, on their left, the rack of house light dimmers installed in 1985. At the far end, hiding behind the cables at left, is a Colortran rack with 192 2.4 Kw dimmers for stage circuits. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



The trap room -- we're looking across to stage right. The steps in the foreground went to the pit -- not in current use. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



In the pit -- now covered. The area at the right is under the stage -- a pit expansion project of 1985. The wood cribbing on the left supports the new terraced floor above. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



In the basement dressing room area stage left. In addition to the basement dressing rooms, there are rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors stage left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



Another view of the basement dressing room corridor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The green room. We're in the basement along the south side of the building, under the house right side of the auditorium. The supply air plenum under the main floor is off to our right. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



Another basement lounge area. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



 A basement chorus dressing room. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



Another basement dressing room view. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



The stairs from stage level up to the 2nd and 3rd floor dressing rooms. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The corridor on the 2nd floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



A dressing room view.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The corridor on the 3rd floor.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



Looking down from the third floor dressing room level stage left.  Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein. Sandi's Avoiding Regret photo essays "Wiltern Theatre, Public Areas" and "Wiltern, Off Limits Areas" have lovely photos of the theatre taken during the 2014 LAHTF tour. Thanks, Sandi!



Cutting a chunk out of the back wall for the stage expansion. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



More of the backwall removed. The bulk of the wall was left intact with a 40' wide opening being the connection to the full height stage extension. In this photo the columns within the opening have yet
to be removed. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



Looking out through the hole in the backwall. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



Pouring the foundation for the stage expansion. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



Formwork for the top of the stage expansion. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



Getting ready to build forms for the new transformer vault -- atop the dressing rooms. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1984



The stagehouse extension and transformer vault from the 1985 renovation. Those are the dressing rooms below the vault. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

Pages about the Wiltern: history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | back to top - backstage | house basement areas | booth and attic |

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