Stage of dreams set to open
"I think it's a marvellous asset for the town"HANNAH FLEMING
Taranaki's only privately owned theatre will soon raise its curtain to the community.
Brett Carter and Raewyn Greig bought the former Park City Church property in Baring Tce in 2011, and have been transforming it into their dream stage ever since.
Thought to be just the second privately owned theatre in New Zealand, the 4th Wall Theatre is set to open on April 11 with the Auckland Theatre Company production of On the Upside- Down of the World, directed by Colin McColl.
The couple with a passion for theatre felt there was a market for an intimate, multipurpose venue that would attract the smaller professional acts who often bypassed New Plymouth.
"Ever since the State Insurance Theatre closed down there has been a void for a medium-sized theatre in New Plymouth," Mr Carter said.
"There's nothing really here for cabaret-style touring shows."
Close to $1 million was spent on buying, extending and renovating the venue.
Although much of the shell was left the way it came, the building had been extended upwards and outwards to provide a large staging area, four-tiered cabaret seating for 100 in the main auditorium, and an upstairs balcony with leather couches for 26 more.
Mr Carter said the stage was 16m wide, and the proscenium 10m wide.
"We have a really big stage for the actors and it's really close to the audience so we've covered both basis. Our furthest seat is 16m from the stage."
His next project was to build a permanent revolve within the stage, which would be a first for Taranaki.
A green room, kitchen, toilets and shower facilities were installed on the lower level, while a bar and social area had also been put in.
"We had to because the church didn't have one," Mr Carter said.
Despite the expenditure, Mr Carter said it was a great piece of real estate which they were incredibly excited about opening.
"The ratepayers haven't put in one cent, and I still think it will be seen as a community asset."
Ms Greig said Mr Carter had done most of the building work, while she was left to "titivate" to her heart's content.
"And it's been great to have our family and friends come down and help out. It's been a lot of fun."
One helper who dropped in to touch up some paintwork while the Taranaki Daily News visited was McDonald Real Estate's Alex McDougall.
He said he had no qualms lending a hand for what he knew would be a fantastic enterprise.
"I think it's a marvellous asset for the town.
"I know I'm going to enjoy a lot of good theatre here."
In its first year, Ms Greig said the focus was on attracting professional touring shows to the region.
Once everything got going, they would look to produce their own shows with invited directors and actors.
Due to the theatre being located in a residential area, council restrictions have limited it to three in-house shows and five travelling shows a year - initially.
"We're limited to about 70 days a year where we can open, at this stage," Ms Greig said.
Despite that, the new theatre had already generated a flurry of interest and Ms Greig had been warned to expect a lot of calls once people got wind of its opening.
"I'm excited, we can't wait," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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