The Blue Mountains town of Katoomba, one of Australia’s most well known tourist destinations- with an estimated four million visitors per year, is set to have its first ever professional theatre company.
Even more exciting is that the first production by the new theatre company- going by the name the Katoomba Theatre Company (KTC) is due to take place in the first quarter of next year.
Over coffee at the well known Katoomba cafe THE ELEPHANT BEAN, Larry Buttrose, one of the KTC’s founding members, filled me on the background.
Together with his partner Belle, they spotted an opportunity when it was revealed that the library would be moved into the new Katoomba Cultural Centre in November, 2012.
Council had plans to turn the old library space into a community hall. The Buttroses had other ideas, and began lobbying the Council for it to covert the space into a contemporary theatre venue.
As Belle said: “A theatre can be a hall, but a hall can’t be a theatre.”
The community campaign that began in April last year generated substantial local support, and the fledgling Katoomba Theatre Company soon gained three high profile patrons – director Bruce Beresford, actor Jack Thompson – and Larry’s very famous cousin, Ita Buttrose, this year’s Australian of the Year.
The Katoomba Theatre Company was officially formed in mid 2012with an impressive group of founding committee members – the Buttroses, Chris Gabardi, Georgia Adamson, Andrew McDonell, Joanne Samuel, Tiriel Mora, Beth Champion, Adam Quinn and Louise O’Halloran.
The Blue Mountains Mayor, Clr Daniel Myles, was very supportive, and in late 2012 the Council agreed to conversion of the old library space into a theatre. It is expected to open in early 2014.
Council has set aside a budget of $750,000 for the conversion including a figure of $250, 000 for the fit-out for the new theatre. Work is due to begin next month.
It is envisaged that when the theatre is complete, it will be a 200 seater with tiered seating and full lighting, sound and other facilities.
The Company anticipates that for its first season it will put on two new Australian plays, and one classic. From this foundation there are many plans and ideas:
‘We are giving close consideration to a number of new Australian plays for our opening season, including one for children.
‘We also plan to produce “Katoomba Follies” – a historical, vaudeville-style, variety show. Something that would attract the interest of the many tourists that come through Katoomba. We are looking at putting on the show at lunchtimes, for foreign tourists and day-trippers up from the city’, Buttrose said.
‘Another idea is to run a weekly, early Friday evening performance of Noel Coward’s PRIVATE LIVES. It is a perfect fit for the Carrington Hotel, one of our main sponsors (along with iconic Australian community bank, BENDIGO BANK). Perhaps we will be able to offer a package, a performance of PRIVATE LIVES together with accommodation and dinner at the Carrington’.
The Committee is also keen to set up its own Youth Theatre program, headed by leading actor, director and theatre educator Helmut Bakaitis – a local resident. As part of this, the Company has been holding talks with Katoomba High School, to involve its students, and discussing with the Council the possibility of having an untenanted retail site in the Civic Plaza as a “pop-up” for the program.
The Company has maintained a high local profile this year. A popular season of eight readings of new Australian plays has been held so far at the Library in the Carrington. The most recent, a standing-room only reading of Buttrose’s comedy “As Could Be” featured leading Australian actors Helen Thomson and William Zappa, and KTC’s Georgia Adamson and Chris Gabardi.
Buttrose says that the Company will also march in the Blue Mountains’ largest annual community event, Katoomba’s Winter Magic Festival, on 22 June.
Fundraising projects are an integral part of any burgeoning theatre company, and KTC has a major event coming up. Ita Buttrose will be guest of honour at a gala fundraising dinner in the Grand Dining Room at the Carrington Hotel on Friday 2 August. There will be an auction that will include an autographed copy of the original Cleo centrefold featuring Jack Thomson. The copy will be signed by the actor, along with the signature of its publisher, Ita Buttrose.
This emergence of an ambitious and determined new professional theatre company in Katoomba fits well with the ongoing cultural renaissance of the Blue Mountains, known as the ‘City of the Arts’, with more and more creative artists leaving the fast paced city life for the more artistically conducive Mountains life.
For more information, visit the KTC website:http://www.katoombatheatrecompany.com.au
© David Kary
10th May, 2013