Prequalified Structures for The Stage

Learn the fundamentals of safe theater set construction

Purdue’s 5-week, 100% online Prequalified Structures for the Stage course, offered by Purdue’s Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering, teaches learners to understand the engineering principles that make typical platform and staging construction practices safe. Upon completion of the course, students will understand how to safely apply prequalified construction and be able to: 

  • Describe the structural principles that guide typical construction techniques ensuring safe staging. (Read more about the importance of safety in theater set construction here). 
  • Inspect shop-built and off-the-shelf platforms and staging for safety. 
  • Understand structural considerations in theater set construction, including loads on platforms, framing, legs and supports, pre-manufactured platforming, and working with materials like sheet goods, stick lumber and stress-skinned panels. 
  • Interpret how to apply traditional construction techniques to non-traditional staging requirements. 

Taught by an expert in theater engineering and production management with decades of related experience, this course provides an accessible, non-math-based approach for understanding how various stage structures work – and the engineering principles that make them effective. Learners don’t need a background in math or engineering to enroll.  

This course is a fast and flexible upskilling opportunity for community and school theater managers, theater set engineers, theater teachers, technical directors, stagehands and anyone else who works with theater and entertainment sets. 

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Knowing structurally sound construction techniques, and understanding how they work, makes the difference between scenic elements that support the story—and the actors—and scenic elements that fall down and put everyone at risk.

Rich Dionne

News and Events

Purdue’s Prequalified Structures Course Emphasizes Safety in Theater Set Construction 

Safe theater set construction is essential to a successful performance. When sets are not constructed safely, disaster can ensue. This blog covers how people who build theater sets can use smart engineering principles to keep performers, stage crew members, and the audience safe. Read More

Purdue offering online Prequalified Structures for the Stage course

Learn more about Purdue’s Prequalified Structures for the Stage online course, which covers the fundamentals of safe and effective theater set construction. Learn about the importance of safe set construction and the engineering principles that make theater builds successful.  Read More

Meet the Instructor: Technical Director and Author, Rich Dionne  

Rich Dionne is an associate professor of practice and faculty technical director specializing in scenery automation and show control systems. Additionally, he mentors Multidisciplinary Engineering students concentrating in Theatre Engineering, and is the chair of the Department of Theatre at Purdue University. He has a passion for both the art of theatre and the science and engineering of making theatre happen.

Rich has served as the technical director for numerous productions in the Department of Theatre; prior to coming to Purdue, Rich was the production manager and resident sound designer at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, where he mounted numerous productions at various indoor and outdoor venues, including a nationally-recognized educational touring company.

Additionally, he has served as the technical director for Berkshire Theatre Festival, Alpine Theatre Project, Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, and Dorset Theatre Festival, mounting critically-acclaimed productions including The Whipping Man, Barefoot in the Park, Amadeus, Night of the Iguana, Avenue Q, The Illusion, and Death of a Salesman. 

Rich is the co-director of Purdue’s Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering. The Fusion Studio connects industry leaders with scholars and practitioners, provides space for development and exploration, and inspires pedagogical innovation at the nexus of engineering and live entertainment. 

Rich is the author of Project Planning for the Stage: Tools and Techniques for Managing Extraordinary Performances (available from Southern Illinois University Press) and is co-author with Michael Gillette of the ninth edition of Theatrical Design and Production (available from McGraw-Hill). He was the Commissioner of Technical Production of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology from 2019 to 2023 and an ETCP-Certified Theatre Rigger (#2928).