First Performance Will Be Right On Q — The Aucklander

Published 24th June 2010, by Rebecca Blithe

Before there are lights to be dimmed or an audience to be hushed, before artistes' butterflies settle or there's applause to bask in, a collaboration of performances will be embedded for a decade in the walls of Queen St's new Q Theatre.

Naomi Bisley, 16, is one of a talented bunch of Auckland secondary school students who've already peeked at progress behind the curtain: a magenta mural that masks the theatre's construction site.

Bisley is helping professional performers record material to go into a time capsule. She's been given one minute on camera to reveal her ambitions for the future. These recordings will be buried and revealed to the group in 2020.

"It's an awesome idea," Bisley enthuses. "It's probably going to be kind of like a high school reunion. My main aim is to get as much involved in theatre as possible. Whether it be dabbling in acting or directing, I know I'll be involved somehow. It's the intimacy of theatre that I love, and the incredibly like-minded people you seem to meet. I wouldn't pass that up for anything."

Actor and director Kip Chapman, who is also submitting a piece on his hopes for Auckland theatre, keenly awaits the capsule's screening a decade away.

"It will be interesting to see and work out who are the ones that survived - probably the students," he says.

The group has also been treated to part of a performance of Massive Company's The Girl's Show and a free workshop with co-directors Carla Martell and Sam Scott.

Q Theatre's general manager, Susanne Ritzenhoff, says the day-long event is a chance to develop relationships with the next breed of stars and to focus on nurturing national talent. "We will be able to provide workshops and mentoring programmes, not just for actors but for technicians as well. That's what you'll see happening at Q Theatre.

"One of the things we are very passionate about is to give the performing arts industry a sustainable space."

Actors and architects were encouraged to work together on the final designs for Q Theatre, says Chapman. "We've got a trapdoor, so that's cool. I remember hammering the point that we need a trapdoor."

Chapman's  trapdoor has been a long time coming. The 1996 closing of the Watershed Theatre prompted a slew of submissions and reviews for a new, similar space. These evolved into fundraising efforts with contributions from Auckland City Council, ASB Community Trust, the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board and private donations.

Fourteen years on, finally being able to show budding and working artists through the bare bones of Q Theatre is proving to be a "special moment", says Ritzenhoff.

Opting for cosy over grandiose, the theatre will seat up to 460 people in a flexiform layout so seating can be rearranged.

"It is going to be intimate and much more suited for smaller performances and predominantly New Zealand performances," says Ritzenhoff.

Q Theatre includes two rehearsal rooms, a cafe and bar and is scheduled to be ready  late next year.

Pier support

At the end of Queen St, Auckland Theatre Company is tuning up with early overtures for a 600-seat theatre alongside the ASB Bank's proposed headquarters at Tank Farm.

It's hoped the $26.8 million theatre will be a central element in revitalising Jellicoe St and the North Wharf promenade.

Auckland Theatre Company general manager Lester McGrath says the proposal is at a very early stage and the company is waiting to hear what the outgoing Auckland City Council says in a couple of months.

"The council has asked for a report, which is due to come back in August, so we'll be very interested in hearing what they have to say," he says.

Mr McGrath says he's not expecting substantial progress on the idea before the council elections on November 1, but already Auckland Theatre Company is talking with interested parties, such as Sea+City, which is overseeing the Tank Farm precinct's redevelopment.

"I think what they are doing down there in the Wynyard Quarter, for instance, in time for the Rugby World Cup, is quite exciting. We would see our proposal for a theatre to be a very good fit and it would ignite the after-five economy."

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