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Drama, magic, and imagination are all hallmarks of the theatre. But when the Starlight Theatre was being remodeled in 2003, budget was lead character. An outdoor theatre by tradition and design, ticket sales and performance seasons were often times misdirected by Mother Nature, and the remodeling was to be used to address her unpredictable whims.

Uni-Systems was given a “to do” list with three primary objectives: Tame the drama of weather, add a bit of magic to the structure, and imagine it being completed within a very small budget. Uni-Systems went to work designing, manufacturing, and installing an operable “starlight” roof for the Starlight Theatre. When they were done, the theatre had a weather-resistant performance and seating area beneath a dramatic, new focal point: a moving roof that opens like the petals of a flower.

Uni-Systems created a six-panel roof that, from the perspective of the audience, rotates up and open in concert with live, orchestral music. When the roof is fully open, the panels form a six-point star through which Mother Nature regains her view of the stage.

The technology was relatively inexpensive, yet the results are no less than revolutionary. The faceted roof consists of six triangular, stainless-steel-clad panels. Once completely engaged, the star-shaped opening allows for some celestial drama to unfold prior to, and throughout, every act performed upon the stage.

Although seated relatively close to the roof, performance-goers neither see nor hear any of the jackscrews, gear motors or the redundant hydraulic safety mechanisms. In the case of rain, the sophisticated roof seal system provides complete protection from the weather and, amusingly, resembles the underside of an umbrella.

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Retractable roof at Starlight TheatreRetractable roof at Starlight TheatreRetractable roof at Starlight TheatreRetractable roof at Starlight Theatre

Project Information

Studio/Gang Architects/Sjostrom & Sons
Project Scope: 
Design, Fabricate, Install
Project Engineer: 
Alan Wilcox
Studio/Gang Architects
General Contractor: 
Sjostrom & Sons