The Story So Far
In 1969/70 it was learned that the Theatre Royal was to be demolished. The City Council suggested that the St James Players and the Stage Door Theatre should put on a joint play to mark its end. So they got together and staged Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park”.
Around about this time, with two other theatre groups, Townsville Theatrical Society and Townsville Genesians, all looking for directors and casts, and with the new Civic Theatre in the offing and TV beginning, the situation began to get rather desperate. So a meeting was called of the three groups and it was agreed to amalgamate The St James Players, The Genesians and The Theatrical Society and to call themselves Townsville Little Theatre.
Our first productions were put on in the Methodist Centre Hall, Garbutt. Our first productions as Townsville Little Theatre were two one-act plays La Musica and A Zoo Story, entered in the North Queensland Drama Festival. The Waltz of the Toreadors was our first full-length production.
The group increased its scope by producing Music Hall programs in the Civic Theatre and other plays. Children’s theatre was also produced in each Christmas holiday in the Arts Centre Theatre.
A place to call ‘home’. Initially in those early days, the newly formed Townsville Little Theatre performed in the old Theatre Royal. Many Townsvillians trod the boards of the Theatre Royal in such plays as: Bonaventure; Johnny Belinda and The Deep Blue Sea. Some of the Townsville Little Theatre productions mounted there include: Lola Montez and Tom Jones (with 100 in the cast!).
When the Theatre Royal was pulled down to make way for the Townsville International Hotel (now the Holiday Inn), the City Council granted the new group the use of the cellar and top floor of the Arts Centre in Stanley Street, to be converted into an intimate theatre much loved by theatre patrons for many, many years and, aptly named The Upstairs Theatre.
Our first productions in The Upstairs Theatre were The Loves of Cass Maguire by Brian Friel, the Irish playwright; followed by The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter in 1972.
For 22 years the Upstairs Theatre was the home of Townsville Little Theatre. However, in October 1994, with the renovations well under way at The Arts Centre, Townsville Little Theatre undertook a further move – back to the home of the former St James Players, the Synod Hall behind St James Cathedral, which became affectionately known as the Hilltop Playhouse.
Again, with renovations underway, TLT, in December 1998, moved into St Margaret Mary’s Theatrette. The generosity of the College meant that TLT could continue to uphold its reputation for producing theatre of a very high standard. However, with a need for greater storage space, TLT undertook a further move.
Our current home is Castle Hill PCYC. However, most TLT performances are held at various locations around Townsville including: the Pimlico High School Performing Arts Complex (PIMPAC) and St Margaret Mary’s Theatrette.
However, Townsville Little Theatre continues to strive towards having a home of it’s own once again. A permanent home for TLT would provide a valuable community resource. A venue where both rehearsals and performances could be undertaken and space for storage, would enable TLT to properly utilise the precious resources of members.
Travelling show! One of the objects of TLT is to promote live theatre in North Queensland. Therefore TLT has hit the road on many occasions.
Only an Orphan Girl was presented by Townsville Little Theatre in collaboration with the Queen’s Hotel in 1976 (before it was sold to Channel 7). The show was a great success and was taken to Ravenswood where it was enthusiastically received.
Ravenswood also invited Townsville Little Theatre to provide entertainment for their 1977 Festival. A grand old Music Hall was produced for this purpose. This production was later presented at the Upstairs Theatre as Castle Hill Capers during the Pacific Festival. This show was also invited to perform at the RAAF Officer’s Mess.
When the Civic Theatre opened in 1978 Townsville Little Theatre was invited to produce a show for part of the grand opening celebrations. A Music Hall was chosen and the show was sold out for both nights of its performance. Another great success’
Another Music Hall, in 1987, was taken to the theatre at Thuringowa High School. In 1990, The Jury was performed in the Synod Hall. As was This Country’s Good in 1992.
Townsville Little Theatre presented many shows at the Civic Theatre, including: Tonight at 8.30 by Noel Coward, Fresh Fields by Ivor Norvello, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee; The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde; Table Manners by Alan Ackyboume; Media (an adaptation) and A Man for All Seasons.
The last show performed on the big stage in the Civic was Alan Hopgood’s And the Big Men Fly in 1985.
Award Winners… Townsville Little Theatre regularly took part in the North Queensland Drama Festival, established by the former St James Players. This festival ran annually from the 1960’s for approximately ten years. It attracted participants from as far as Mt Isa, Rockhampton, Calms and the Atherton Tablelands.
This Festival was recommenced in 1993 as the Festival of One Act Plays (FOOAP). Townsville Little Theatre member Stan Newman played a large part in this revival.
Townsville Little Theatre has consistently entered this Festival, and won many prestigious awards. Townsville Little Theatre members have also been the recipients of the Townsville City Council Arts, Cultural and Entertainment Awards, for services to the Arts.
Over the years, Townsville Little Theatre has tackled a wide range of repertoire including: Music Halls, musicals, melodramas, Greek tragedy, Children’ pantomimes, contemporary plays, Australian plays and locally written plays. Secrets was a group-devised project for the Youth Arts Festival held in Townsville in 1991. Directed by Jack Aranda, Secrets was performed at Strand Park in the Festival, and later at the Upstairs Theatre.
Wine, Cheese and Shakespeare was Townsville Little Theatre’s major fundraising event in 1991. Performed at the Perc Tucker Gallery, less well-known excerpts from the Bard’s comedies, histories and tragedies were performed by Malcolm Berry, Kirsty Veron, Ann Valmadre and Bernie Lanigan They were accompanied on Renaissance Lute by Peter Symes (now Gore). The fundraiser was a sell out success. A further two performances were held at the Civic Theatre Basement Studio.
Moving Frames, was a RADF and Arts Council funded project aimed at young women in Townsville. Directed by Daphne Cazalets, Moving Frames was performed ‘stage on stage’ at the Civic Theatre in 1994. An artistic success, the show was invited to perform at the Cowshed as part of the Young Writers Festival (now known as Interplay). Froggie by Steven J Spiers, billed as ‘a fairytale for grown-ups’ was performed at the Railway Estate Community Hall. The play dealt with perceptions of disability. Thus the use of the hall, as a participant in the production was physically disabled. Directed by Jack Aranda, Froggie was an outstanding, celebration of black comedy. On the final night audiences paid for ‘standing room only”.
Our reputation is that of an amateur group which produces theatre of a very high standard (professional is the word often used).
And the lows …
In 1986 Townsville Little Theatre hit a low period. You could count the members on both hands and the fortunes of the group reached such an all time low that they contemplated relinquishing the Upstairs Theatre. However, the group was able to revitalise itself, assisted by then President Stuart Jardine. Townsville Little Theatre continues to be a vital part of the community, providing members with the opportunity for recreation and artistic expression. It has been said that theatre is an outlet for passionate people who think!
Local talent …
Elizabeth Perkins, local playwright, wrote The Dark Behind the Stage and Death of a Poet directed by Scott Gooding in 1991 in the Upstairs Theatre. Elizabeth also wrote A Nice Walk in the Mall which was performed by TLT at the 1990 Pacific Festival. The Chapter on Frankenstein was written by local identity Colin Campbell. It was performed in 1995 at FOOAP, where it won ‘Best Original Script”; and later at the Hilltop Playhouse. In 1997, TLT performed James Euclid’s Silicon Madonna. Directed by Roslyn Johnson, this was yet another locally written play and outstanding artistic success. Eleven and Twelve, a fun look at romance, holidays and marriage, written by Norah Nayr and directed by Rachel O’Dwyer was performed by TLT in 2002.
Townsville Little Theatre continues to be supportive of local playwrights and welcomes the opportunity to advance local talent and skills.
A member for life …
The late Pat Wallace and the late Barbara Chandler were for many years our only life members. Pat reached a very high level of artistic competence with all the productions she directed, or assisted to direct for the 12 years she was associated with Townsville Little Theatre. Barbara was a theatre personality before TLT was formed. She gave strength and direction to the theatre until she moved to Southern Queensland in the early 1980’s. The late June Aylward was awarded life membership in 1997. June, whose belief in what little theatre has to offer has never wavered. Her determination that this aspect of the Arts should retain its place in the community has upheld the group when membership and enthusiasm have been down. Pam Lythgo who has been an active supporter of TLT for many years both as an actor and director and the late June Martin whose support in the designing, making and repairing of costumes for many years, were both awarded Life membership in early 2000.
What’s in a name …
For a short period, beginning in 1987, Townsville Little Theatre became The Townsville Theatre Group. In 1988, with a greater awareness for history the group become known again as the Townsville Little Theatre. With incorporation completed in 1994, we became Townsville Little Theatre Group Inc! This is our full and correct title.
Our mighty elephant …
Our wonderful irreverent logo, the mighty TLT elephant was designed by Townsville Little Theatre member Joy Hinckley. Joy was involved in the Townsville Theatre scene for many years, before moving to Brisbane. She was a member of both the Banana Troupe and Townsville Little Theatre. Joy designed our logo in approx 1993/4. The elephant was chosen as the antithesis of our name. Townsville LITTLE Theatre – what could be more opposite to ‘little’ than an elephant! The elephant also never forgets, has enormous strength and endurance and is a creature of great beauty… what could be more fitting! And she’s got a cheeky glint in her eye as well.
In 2001, our favourite mascot was finally named Edna -following a suggestion by TLT member Rachel O’Dwyer.
And the future…
TLT exists through the support, dedication and enthusiasm of its members. This means your support, your enthusiasm and your dedication – without it Townsville Little Theatre can’t and won’t survive. Being a involved as a member of the cast or crew of a Townsville Little Theatre production is an experience not to be missed – many great friendships have began this way!
So, welcome, enjoy and participate