2011 NWTC president’s review

January 20, 2012

President of the North West Theatre Company, John Wearne reflects on a very successful 2011.

It is pleasing to report on a very successful year for North West Theatre Company, with a number of varied activities. These properly reflect the potential we have to not only be a producer of high quality theatre , but to represent the region and community in a range of creative areas. A brief summary of what the company has been involved with in 2011 bears this out.

The year 2011 began on an emotional high when NWTC produced an Australia Day – eve concert featuring the visiting Special Olympics Dance Group and prominent country music singer, songwriter and radio personality Amber Lawrence. The Special Olympics Dance Group used this concert to support four Bingara and Warialda music students selected to travel to Hawaii – Ally Dixon , Nicolette Grabham , Ryan Smith and Hamish Robinson – and this was a really generous gesture.  ‘Shine’ proved to be a memorable experience, played to a substantial audience, and was one of the “great” nights at the Roxy.

February saw a reprise of ‘Music, Movies and Mayhem,’ a fun quiz night that the company last staged in 2009. Again, the response was less in numbers than hoped for, but everyone enjoyed a really good night.

One of the year’s highlights came in August, when an audience of more than 200 packed the Roxy to be entertained (no, thrilled) by one of Bingara’s favourite daughters , Lexi Hutton. Lexi, now forging an international career as a soprano in Europe, gave us a very generous mix of classical opera and popular songs.

The other significant production for the year came in November when the company produced a season of One-Act plays. The two plays provided an interesting contrast.

‘The Playing Fields of Eden,’ written by Rick Hutton, featured Nick Hutton and Jess Russell-Davis as a young couple at the centre of a tragic set of circumstances culminating in a murder and eventual execution. In a lighter vein, ‘Love Letters,’ starring Rick Hutton and Nedine Young, is an often-performed popular work.

The two plays were enthusiastically received, and represented some of the best work the company has ever done. Much credit needs to go to well known Sydney Director and actor Terry Brady, who directed both. Terry has directed for the company at least twice before, and to great effect.

Our audience numbers were disappointing to a certain extent, though we did break even financially, but the quality of the work brought great credit to the company. Well-known actor Grant Dodwell (“ A Country Practice”, etc) was in the audience for one of the performances, and offered some very flattering comments.

A major initiative came during 2011 with the establishment of a Film Club set up within the auspices of the NWTC. We felt we were ideally placed to offer this, and the club is about to finish a 6-month trial season. Generally it has been a success, with 24 permanent members.

Our membership of the Federation of NSW and Associated Film Societies enables us to purchase the screening rights from distributors at a significantly reduced fee, but also requires us to develop a membership subscription structure to qualify.

The company is about to review certain areas of the club’s operations, and it may be possible to further reduce the membership fee to less than the current $10 per month/ movie. A sub committee will shortly select this year’s program in its entirety. This will achieve a balance in the type of films, and enable us to list the whole program in what will probably be a ten-month season beginning at the end of February and finishing at the end of November.

This year we are hoping to enter ‘The Playing Fields of Eden’ in the Port Macquarie Short Play Festival, which several Executive members visited this year over the June long weekend. There is also some scope to tour either or both of the one-act plays early in the year, depending on the availability of the cast and crew.

However, by far our biggest project of the year, will be a joint production with Bingara Central School, supported by Warialda High, of an exciting new musical with a totally local flavor.

‘Big River Dreaming’ has been written over recent years by Rick Hutton, and will be adapted, as was “Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, to enable the majority of students of all ages to again be involved.

Could I particularly thank the members of NWTC Executive – Vice President Martin Hansford, Secretary Ros Moulton, Treasurer Susan Hutton, and Executive members Frances Young and Jon Alliston. I save my biggest pat on the back for Publicity Officer Rick Hutton, who is so much more.

This year Rick has produced Lexi’s concert, written one of our one-act plays, played the lead in one, overseen the program for ‘Music, Movies and Mayhem’, spent countless hours fine tuning his new musical, and is developing ideas for a ‘Grey and Thespian Mardi Gras’ to perhaps be held over Easter. How does he do it?

As we prepare to celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2012 , the company remains ideally placed to continue to promote theatre, especially among young people, and to run a varied and innovative set of activities to enhance the wonderful facilities that the Roxy Complex has provided for this, and other, communities in this region.