ON DECEMBER 2, 1983, Councillor Dorothy Halloran opened the Stanthorpe Little Theatre on its current Conner St site. Almost 40 years on and it is still going strong.
Briefly it was known as The Music and Drama Society, which represented an amalgamation between the Stanthorpe Repertory Society and the Stanthorpe and District Choral Society. They went on to re-group separately, under the titles with which we are now familiar.
The Granite Belt Choir loaned the company $4000 to assist in setting up the theatre – remarkably this was repaid in full in 1984. Few of the current members are aware of the hard work, commitment and dogged determination of those who went before, working until the Little Theatre was equipped well enough to house it’s first performance.
Over those first 3 years, work went on to fundraise for seats, heating, dressing rooms, storage and all the paraphernalia that goes with a working theatre. Performances were already taking place in the theatre, with still much to do – but no compromise was made however, in the quality of performance.
Under the guidance of Pam Tickler, Jeanene Chapman, Merv Hayes, Doreen Watson and their committees the company continued to thrive. In 1984, 1000 audience members attended Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. During that same year the company raised $4000 dollars for lights, purchased a piano and brought in noted tutors from Brisbane to run workshops.
A great emphasis was placed on children’s theatre and drama workshops and much acclaim was earned by all involved. Over the years, the company “toured” Texas, Tenterfield and Killarney, and experimented in shared productions with the CWA and the Stanthorpe Folk Club.
Members performed The Pirates of Penzance in 1985 and more recently Iolanthe and The Sentimental Bloke with the Granite Belt Choir. The committees have been tireless over the years and lighting and sound have been improved – though John Draper insists he needs more lights!
The heating has been upgraded, flooring replaced in the auditorium, back stage facilities improved ramp and steps re-surfaced and expanded, and in 2014 – thanks to a grant from Community Gaming Benefit Fund – the building was repainted.
Also the fire doors were re-sited and the back balcony extended and enclosed and was turned into a wing. The work goes on.
On July 15, 1948, a group of 15 people formed The Stanthorpe Repertory Society, supported by Zoe Passmore as coach, director and critic.
They performed until 1974, then came a 5 year lull until Pat King breathed life back into the company. In fact, there has been a theatre company in the district since the 1920s but not many records survive.
Doreen Watson was president for 20 years. She and Jeanene Chapman served on the committee, directed and performed in productions, and led a lively group of thespians to the end of the 20th century and beyond.
In 2005 Doreen Watson supported the idea of the company presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Jeff Harden’s Bungawarra Winery. This project caught the imagination of a number of talented performers and has become an annual event which the Stanthorpe and district public support wholeheartedly and I love them all for it.
Space does not allow mention of all who gave time and talent on-stage, back-stage, front of house and/or served on committees over the years. The current committee presided over by Shannon Cox, with the massive support of Christopher Desgrand, Michael Brittain, Annie Mitchell, Elise O’Brien, Bruce Ward and Grace Mitchener. Thanks all those in the past and present who have dedicated themselves to this, the Stanthorpe Little Theatre Company. 2021 has seen the building grow to include a foyer and kitchen with safe exit for our lighting person. This is due to the large support of the local community and theatre members to see this come to life. The work continues with much to be added including new lights, updating the back stage area, and building the deck on the front building.
In the words of Shakespeare, “Good on yer”.
by Veronica Hammond & Shannon Cox