Q Theatre challenges ‘all part of the fun’
It will 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 and 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, who joined the Q team in November, is managing the task of adapting a heritage building to the needs of a flexible, modern theatre.
Any small change in design can have a flow-on effect on acoustics or sightlines 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 being to reinvent it for every show.
“Ultimately it’s just a box you play in,” Mr Dowson says.
“If a director 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 become a gathering place to share and explore ideas.
“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 work on building the Aotea Centre and the Bruce Mason Theatre, and renovation of the Civic Theatre.
“Back then we were certainly better at knocking theatres down than building them,” he says.
“But 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 their stories.”
Q Theatre general manager Suzanne Ritzenhoff says Mr Dowson brings valuable experience to the team.
“He has a very rare combination of skills. He knows the industry really well, having been through the process of building a theatre, and having the Civic refurbishment under his belt.
“He’s gone through the process of translating the needs of the industry into architectural plans.”
Ms Ritzenhoff says building consent applications are on track for work to start at the end of the year or early next year.