Q The­atre chal­lenges ‘all part of the fun’

Central Leader - - News - By Heather McCracken

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.

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