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iWeiss - Standing Tall on its Roots - By Nicole Tocco

Today, iWeiss has offices in New York, Illinois, and Missouri - in addition to its headquarters in New Jersey. The company has more than 75,000 square feet of manufacturing capabilities across the United States. iWeiss’ renowned work can be seen in theaters, performing arts centers, and educational facilities all over the world. But it all started in an unassuming little building in New York City more than 100 years ago.

 original building

In 1899, Isadore Weiss started a small upholstery shop in mid-town Manhattan, in the heart of what would soon become the most famous theater district in the world. iWeiss quickly built a reputation for high-quality work and efficiency. So, it came as no surprise that prop men from nearby theaters often called on iWeiss for furniture and drapery for their shows.

 old logo

Two of Isadore’s sons, Mac and Henry, began expanding the company’s exposure by manufacturing drapery for Broadway shows and famed venues including Radio City Music Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and many others. While Mac took the lead on the textile side of the business, Henry set his sights on introducing schools, hotels, and theaters up and down the east coast to not only custom drapery, but also manual rigging installations and stage machinery. By the 1950s, iWeiss had acquired the rigging and manufacturing equipment of Bruckner-Mitchell. The company continued to build on that side of the business and hasn’t looked back since.

Though business slowed in the ‘70s, tides would soon turn. Mac’s son, Steve Weiss, took the helm in the early 1980s and hired new partner David Rosenberg in 1985. David, who became majority owner, grew iWeiss from a small company with fewer than five employees to a thriving industry leader. Some of that expansion came as a result of iWeiss producing drapery for legendary shows like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables, and more. These sell-out Broadway shows and national tours made iWeiss a name synonymous with success in the drapery industry.

Then, in 1994, Rosenberg hired Jennifer Tankleff as the office manager and by 1997 she took over the management role of iWeiss drapery shop. During her time in that role, Jennifer worked with numerous designers to produce drapery for more than 300 Broadway shows, as well as for hundreds of performing arts centers and educational facilities across the U.S. and abroad. Jennifer went on to take full ownership of iWeiss in 2017.

iweiss red

In keeping with its long tradition of innovation and expansion, iWeiss moved into the ever-growing automation market in the early 2000s, producing its first automation product—the self-climbing Vialift. It was a success and iWeiss continued its growth in this field. Today, iWeiss has a catalog of more than 15 automation products and associated control systems. It was also during this time that the company went back to its roots in manufacturing manual rigging equipment for curtain tracks and counterweight rigging, making iWeiss a true one-stop shop—the only company in the industry that can provide drapery, rigging equipment, and automation all under one roof.

In 2019, iWeiss partnered with Said Louis, the new CEO of the company. Though some names and faces have changed over the years, some very important things remain the same. We truly understand your needs and we pride ourselves on our ability to provide personalized service— every job, big or small, receives the same careful attention. We believe just about anything is possible, and we welcome creative challenges. Working in both new construction and historical restoration, our staff comes armed with a deep knowledge of the theater industry and a commitment to excellence. 

We look forward to continuing to evolve and grow in our ability to provide our customers with superior quality. And, as we look toward our future, we can’t help but remember where it all started—in that little upholstery shop in mid-town Manhattan.

 logo 2018


Raising the Dauntless

iWeiss has completed another Airplane Rigging project with Century Aviation of East Wenatchee WA.

Raising the DauntlessProject Manager Russ Dusek worked with Century Aviation owner Mark Smith on the planning and engineering for the rigging of restored Sikorsky HRS-2 and UH-34D helicopters, along with a WW II SBD Dauntless hung – overhead in a dive attitude -for the expansion of the National Marine Corps Museum in Virginia.

For the Dauntless the factory installed lift points were designed for hoisting the aircraft onto a ship so the challenge here was to engineer new points to support the dive attitude required by the museum. Working with Mike Rolfs of Pacific Engineering, Russ & Mark designed and fabricated new attachment points that would provide the necessary strength for a “dive hang” without compromising the integrity or appearance of the 6,000 lb. aircraft -guts removed. As the plane had to be flown over an existing floor exhibit, once engineered load tests were performed we employed chain hoists to lift and laterally move the plane and place it into the desired bank and attitude. Once approved, permanent rigging cables were installed and the hoists removed.

The 8,000lb UH-34D Helicopter was mounted in a 9 degree nose down position on steel stands built by Century. As overhead lifting was not possible due to a Jet display, we employed a 12,000 lb capacity tele-handler to lift the copter from its main rotor head with a second lift at the tail wheel to achieve final attitude on the stands.

iWeiss continues its relationship with Century Aviation later this year with the installation of an F/A-18A Hornet in a newly constructed section of the museum.


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Curved Austrian for Chicago Shakespeare Theater

iWeiss recently fabricated and installed a curved motorized Austrian curtain for the new production of “A Flea in Her Ear” at Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater. The rigging system was custom designed and all components, including the curved truss were custom-built in our shop to accommodate the very limited overhead space, and ensure smooth and quiet operation. 

The 46’ wide by 25’ high Austrian Curtain hangs in front of the proscenium, with no floor space for the winch in the immediate vicinity. It was, therefore, installed overhead, which proved to be difficult due to several catwalks and lighting equipment obstructing the ceiling area in every direction. In a standard lift system, the lift lines are connected to a clew then to a drive line attached to the winch to lift the curtain. In this case, the 25’ of travel necessary was not available. iWeiss built a “2 to 1” clew to provide a 2’ lift for every 1’ of clew travel and thus allow us to install the winch on a side catwalk. Since the Austrian hangs from a curved truss, all equipment was modified to provide the proper angles and minimum friction for each cable. We used a custom fabricated variable speed lifting motor with a remote control and a single-line “yoyo” drum to avoid unwanted fleet angles. 
The Austrian curtain was fabricated of Super Vel, an inherently flame retardant light weight velour-like fabric that provided a rich theatrical look while allowing the curtain to take up less than 4’ when in gathered or raised position.

A Flea in her Ear will be playing from March 10th to April 23rd 2006. To find out more about the show please visit Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

For more information on this project, please contact Richard Parks.

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