Theatre advocates remain in the dark

Stage South Charitable Trust's Clare Adams outside the Fortune Theatre in Stuart St yesterday....
Stage South Charitable Trust's Clare Adams outside the Fortune Theatre in Stuart St yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Dunedin's theatre community remains in the dark and withers while speculation around another new performance space for the city takes the spotlight, a professional theatre advocacy group says.

A multi-use performance space has been raised as part of a potential hotel development at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

However, Stage South Charitable Trust chairwoman Clare Adams said if a venue with flexible configuration of stage and seating was part of the future development at the stadium, it offered "no solution" for the city’s present performing arts woes.

Performance spaces such as that were already easy enough to find in the city, Ms Adams said.

On the other hand, after the Fortune Theatre closed in 2018, professional theatre had no home in Dunedin. Audiences were without a venue of the size and suitability for the sort of theatre that inspired them and "kept them coming back".

She appreciated clarification from Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins that the new performance space was more likely something that could support live music, but talk of a new multi-use theatre would ultimately distract people from what the city was missing after the Fortune Theatre closed.

In September 2018, Stage South signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dunedin City Council to collaborate with the council and Creative New Zealand to produce a performing arts feasibility study.

After spending many unpaid hours over the next 18 months working towards the feasibility study and having "some idea" of what was going on, after consultant Charcoalblue’s final report was released "the industry has been kept in the dark", she said.

The last she heard, officially, the options were a revamped Athenaeum and a revamped Mayfair.

Now suddenly there was talk about some sort of theatre at the stadium.

"The city has now been four years without a mid-sized theatre; audiences dedicated to theatre have been four years without enjoying productions of the size and type they were used to; the theatre industry has been four years without being able to practice their craft to the fullness of their abilities."

"Many younger and upcoming practitioners have left the city; older, more experienced practitioners still living in the city have had to take other jobs, and can now only participate occasionally in small productions in found spaces," Ms Adams said.

"Dunedin is the poorer for it."

A council spokeswoman said the council understood the theatre sector’s frustration, but there was a plan to continue to work with the performing arts community, including establishing a performing arts round table.

The council’s work to develop a permanent theatre venue was separate from the performance venue included in the proposed hotel development at Forsyth Barr Stadium, she said.



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