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Rigging in entertainment can be broken down into two main subjects – theatrical rigging and arena-style rigging. All the same skills apply in both genres. The first takes place in a theatre, and typically involves the theatre's permanent fly system. The other in an arena or "exposed structure venue" such as a convention center, ballroom, warehouse etc.

Circus rigging, comprising aerial acrobatic apparatuses that support human beings under dynamic loading conditions, and stabilization rigging for large scale fabric tension structures (big tops), is, perhaps, under appreciated in the general rigging field, and may be considered by some to be a separate field. However, the principles of physics and the standards of engineering that apply to theatrical and arena rigging still hold true in circus rigging, and much of the same equipment and many of the same devices are commonly used. All the same skills apply in this genre as well.

Chain motors and trusses are not used as often in tented circuses as in arena or theater rigging, however arena circuses make regular use of them. In both tented and arena circuses, crane-bars or frames stabilized by guy cables, hung from fiber rope block and tackle systems are common, as are systems supporting and tensioning safety nets.

High (or low) wire rigging, while simple in principle and application, requires substantial load-path capacity, as wire walkers generally require high tension in their systems.

Automation rigging is used by many circuses, to fly both human beings and scenic or prop elements.

In theatrical rigging, the venue may have one or more of these systems:


Most entertainment rigging training is done either by apprenticeship or formal training through unions, e.g. IATSE.[2] The most advanced hands-on training in the United States is in Las Vegas, at the Nevada Resort Association-IATSE 720 Training Trust in Nevada.


In US, the recognized entertainment rigging certification is the E.T.C.P. arena and theater rigging certification programs as well as S.P.R.A.T rope access training.[3] In UK the PLASA NRC (National Rigging Certificate) is the recognized entertainment rigging certification. [4]


  1. ^ "Rigging Terminology" (PDF). USITT. United States Institute for Theatre Technology. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "National Rigging Certificate (NRC)". 29 November 2017.

Further reading

Donovan, Harry (1999). Entertainment Rigging. SAP.