Karnak on way back
NICK Cilento and his partner Allie Wilde pulled up at his late aunt Diane’s fabled Karnak property all dusty and hot. They had just taken 400 old seats from the theatre to the council tip. Thirsty work, but another step in the much anticipated renovation of the late, great actress’s Whyanbeel theatrical hub which for years had been an artistic beacon in the district.
Since Ms Cilento died her beloved property has been weathering poorly in the tropical climate.
But now, her relatives have agreed on a plan to restore Karnak as a functioning theatrical and arts centre .
Her nephew Nick, Allie and Foundation Director Ballina Gee have been living on the property on and off for weeks, getting stuck into the very hefty task of bringing it back to life.
Ms Cilento’s children Giovanna and Jason and the Diane Cilento Foundation Board delivered the project briefing to Nick (48) and Allie, who were not only willing to take it on but are professional performing artists and producers. Board member Ms Gee is also part of the performing arts as an opera singer and creative consultant in Sydney.
“After being inactive for six years it is in some state of disrepair. “We’ve started rebuilding the auditorium, the stage,
renovating the restaurant/bar area, and then it’s a matter of getting the community back in,” Mr Cilento told the Gazette. “We’ll be producing shows up here, hopefully with lots of community interaction and participation. “It’s about creating a lasting legacy here.”
They envisage bringing everything to Karnak – from big international performers such as opera singers, and acrobats, or circus performers and other professional artists, to the local community participating in shows.
“It’s all about creating an atmosphere where art is easily made and able to thrive.”
Mr Cilento said that sorting out the future of Karnak had taken a while, but Giovanna had come to him about 18 months and said “this is what they’d like to happen, but she is not an artist so she needed someone who was. “So we thought, ‘it’s time’.” Mr Cilento said the demise of Karnak as a theatrical centre meant something was missing from the area.
“We’ve noticed the amount of people who are incredibly interested in what’s happening. They say that they really miss it. So that’s a great place to start.”
The re-awakening of Karnak Playhouse is planned for next season. The Diane Cilento Foundation has and is accepting donations, sponsorship and in-kind services towards the infrastructure and service delivery costs.
Crowd funding program is to be launched and production/events of confirmed bookings are underway. Ms Gee asks that people who are interested in presenting productions to come forward to be considered for programming.
Ms Gee said Ms Cilento was full of life and the re-awakened Karnak Playhouse, though in her spirit, could not replicate her presence.
“Out of respect for Diane, we decided to let the Theatre rest a bit to allow space for the future of Karnak Playhouse to take its own form, to find its way into the future,” she said. To keep up-to-date and/or to contribute, connect through the Foundations Facebook page https:// www.facebook.com/ DianeCilentoFoundation/
Allie Wilde and Nick Cilento
The view over the lake to the back of the stage at Karnak Playhouse
Nick Cilento, Ballina Gee and Allie Wilde