Q a great theatre experience
It’ll be three years before theatregoers are finding their seats or queuing for a drink at Q Theatre.
But project manager Tim Dowson is already worrying about their experience.
“We’re talking about what the experience will be of a patron arriving here, or a person just rocking up for a drink with friends,” Mr Dowson says.
And that’s balanced against how the $21 million venue will work for actors, directors, technicians, ushers, or bar staff.
“It’s a complicated beast.
“We’ve got some real challenges but none of them are insurmountable, and it’s all part of the fun.”
Mr Dowson joined the Q team in November, where he’s managing the complications of adapting a heritage building to the needs of a flexible, modern theatre.
Any small change in design can have a flowon effect on acoustics or sight-lines for the audience or performers.
“Everything is so integrated that you can’t work in isolation,” he says.
And Q Theatre needs to work in several different configurations – the aim is for the theatre to be reinvented every time a show goes on.
“Ultimately it’s just a box that you play in,” Mr Dowson says.
“If a director comes in and says, ‘I want to do this’, it’s flexible enough to do it.”
The venue on Queen St, beside the town hall, will include a bar and cafe, rehearsal space, and flexi-form theatre of between 350 and 450 seats.
Final funding was confirmed when a $6m lotteries grant was announced in November, adding to money already raised from community trusts, Auckland City Council and private donors.
The project has not had unanimous support from the arts community, but an independent study last year showed the mid-size venue was urgently needed.
Q supporters also hope it will also become a gathering place where ideas can be shared and explored.
“Technicians will be able to chat with actors, and directors will be able to talk with designers,” Mr Dowson says.
“It won’t just be about what’s happening in the main auditorium.”
Mr Dowson’s theatre career has included working on construction of the Aotea Centre and the Bruce Mason Theatre, and the renovation of the Civic Theatre.
“Back then we were certainly better at knocking theatres down than building them,” he says.
“But I think as a city we’re starting to acknowledge some of these things.
“There was huge community pride in the fact that the Civic was saved, and I think healthy cities need these facilities to tell our stories.”
Q Theatre general manager Suzanne Ritzenhoff says Mr Dowson brings valuable experience to the team.
“He’s got a very rare combination of skills in terms of knowing the industry really well, having been through the process of building an entire theatre, and having the refurbishment of the Civic under his belt,” she says.
“He’s gone through the process of translating the needs of the industry through to architectural plans.”
Ms Ritzenhoff says building consent applications are on track for work to start at the end of the year or early 2010.
Play box: Project director Tim Dowson with a working model of Q Theatre, to be built on Auckland’s Queen St.