Oh, if this stage could talk

NewsMail - - LIFE -

The birth­place of theatre in Bund­aberg turns 50 this year and shows no sign of a cur­tain call any time soon. Af­ter half a cen­tury, the Play­house Theatre has hosted many a per­for­mance and seated thou­sands of stage en­thu­si­asts. Sherry Barnes re­flects on her time with the pop­u­lar venue with mem­o­ries of peo­ple, plays and a pas­sion for the arts.

“MAY God bless all who work and play within”, said Agnes Baker MBE, the pa­troness of Bund­aberg Play­ers, as she cut the rib­bon on the stage cur­tain be­fore the open­ing night per­for­mance of The Miser on

April 29, 1968.

Moliere’s 17th Cen­tury French com­edy of man­ners di­rected by He­len Cat­ter­mull was the first pro­duc­tion ever per­formed on­stage at the Play­house Theatre in St­ef­fensen Street.

The Miser will again be pre­sented 50 years later in Au­gust, as part of the Play­ers’ 2018 sea­son.

Pre­vi­ously per­form­ing at lo­cal venues in­clud­ing the Par­ish Hall in Woon­garra Street, and old Win­ter­gar­den Theatre (the former Block­buster site) Play­ers re­alised if progress was to be made, a theatre solely for their use was a must and con­struc­tion be­gan in 1964 of club rooms in St­ef­fensen Street, and later a stage and au­di­to­rium seat­ing 175 fac­ing west.

The next ma­jor con­struc­tion open­ing in 1976 with The Bas­tard Coun­try, con­sisted of the present tiered au­di­to­rium seat­ing 254 with au­di­ence fac­ing east.

In his glow­ing theatre re­view, then NewsMail Edi­tor Ron Har­vey echoed Agnes Baker’s words, de­scrib­ing the pre-theatre Wine and Cheese party’s “pleas­ant in­ti­mate na­ture of the scene in the new premises which rep­re­sent Bund­aberg’s own Lit­tle Theatre.”

Mr Har­vey, a pas­sion­ate sup­porter of the arts, never missed an open­ing night, rush­ing straight back to the NewsMail of­fice to write his re­view which al­ways ap­peared in the very next morn­ing’s edi­tion.

He kept ev­ery pro­gram, com­plete with his notes jot­ted in the mar­gins; his col­lec­tion now care­fully stored away, along with my dis­tant mem­o­ries of play­ing Mar­i­ane in The Miser.

Act­ing op­po­site my high-school French and English teacher, Jeff Shep­herd who played “the miser” was a lit­tle daunt­ing at first, but my first role with the Play­ers was an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity I grasped ea­gerly – I think he was a bit sur­prised though.

On re­flec­tion I was prob­a­bly a bit young for the part, hav­ing gone to au­di­tions mainly to ob­serve – but there was no Youth Theatre in those days so I was in sev­enth heaven on the Play­ers stage – I still am.

I was also for­tu­nate to act along­side the bril­liantly tal­ented Pat Fair­cloth and Ian Re­hbein, both of whom still live in Bund­aberg and are sure to be in the au­di­ence at The Miser this year.

May God bless all those who work and play within.

— Agnes Baker, 1968

LET’S BUILD A THEATRE: Sign­ing the Play­house Theatre con­tract are pres­i­dent Gor­don Dick (back left), artis­tic di­rec­tor He­len Cat­ter­mull, trea­surer Ron Halpin along with com­mit­tee mem­ber Bill Mil­lar (front left), builder Joe Gaffney, com­mit­tee mem­ber John Fair­cloth and vice-pres­i­dent Skip Cat­ter­mull.

Sherry Barnes as Mar­i­ane in The Miser in 1968

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