May 2, 2011


Greetings to all Basement Theatre users, and potential users,

This is an open letter from The Basement Theatre Trust to you all to announce the exciting developments occurring at your favourite small theatre. It is also aimed at opening the lines of communication and dialogue so that you can share in the excitement, and reflect back to us your experience (the good, the bad and the ugly) when working at The Basement.

The Past:

In August 2010 the Basement Theatre Trust was incorporated to take over the governance of the Basement Theatre. The board became responsible for the Basement Theatre from November 2010.

Our mission statement is:
“To foster Auckland’s emerging and newly established performance artists by providing an affordable, multi-purpose, central city entertainment venue as a platform where these artists can showcase and develop their craft.”

Our first priority has been to ensure the sustainability of the venue so that it remains as an Auckland institution for performance artists into the future, no matter who is managing / programming it. We want new vibrant theatre to be created and performed at The Basement for decades to come.

What we found on first meeting mid 2010 was:

  • an exhausted staff working largely unpaid, who after 2 years of hard work were at burn-out levels. 
  • a potentially great venue but one that needed a great deal of work and upkeep to become a safe, clean and pleasant venue for companies to work in.
  • a huge rent increase imposed by the Auckland City Council and rising costs in a number of areas
  • a lack of systems in place that meant companies arriving often had to clean up the mess from the company before, do their own box office, no technical support etc
  • equipment going missing as no staff member could be there and oversee all pack outs, ins etc. 
None of this was the fault of the dedicated staff – they were working in impossible conditions with little financial support.

The Present

Due to generous support from ASB, Arts Alive and the Acting Community, plus a great deal of hard work by staff, the venue now has:

  • a proper dressing room and green room
  • a toilet and shower for the actors
  • safe and squeak–free stairs up to the dressing rooms 
  • 2 useable rehearsal/warm up spaces upstairs
  • air conditioning in the theatre
  • improved systems that mean smoother running and better conditions for the companies coming in
  • a part time Technical Manager to oversee and upkeep equipment supervise pack ins and outs plus give first aid support.
  • a full time Venue manager and part time Programmer/grant application writer etc 
  • staff who are no longer exhausted and at the point of resigning.
We were delighted when The Basement Theatre was judged “the most exciting live theatre in the country” by The New Zealand Herald in December 2010. Congratulations to all of you who performed at The Basement last year! This success is largely due to Michelle Blundell’s programming and Charlie McDermott’s management. They have both worked incredibly hard to get to this point and continue to find ways to improve things.

We do know that all the improvements have meant an initial cost to you – the users of the space.

In order to achieve the above things, and for the performance community to be confident they will continue to have this venue into the future, an increase in venue hire fees was vital. We were all reluctant to pass on any costs to the impoverished performance community but hoped you would see what the money was achieving for you. We will do everything possible to ensure that no further increase will be required. Indeed, if further ongoing funding can be secured, a better deal for performers may be able to be struck.

Finding funding is an ongoing and time consuming task. It is done, ultimately, for the performers who use the space. We observe, with a hint of jealousy, the funding our sister venue in Wellington (Bats Theatre) enjoys. This includes Creative NZ and City Council funding which allows them to employ 5 full-time staff and offer fantastic rates to their users. We will work hard to eventually be able to be in the same position.

There is a long way to go to remedy and improve the many venue and infrastructure difficulties inherent in an old building and cash-strapped organization. It is important to understand that we as a board do not aim for ‘profit’ in any way – all monies are immediately plowed back into the venue and staff so that we can ensure the ongoing viability of the cheapest but hopefully most vital performance venue in Auckland. 

We will do everything we can to try to improve the lot of the artists who come to the Basement. That is the reason we agreed to be on this board.

In that vein we would like to announce the availability of a small, intimate, cheap performance space to hire. Upstairs with its own stairway access, end stage and tiered seating is our new Studio Theatre! You may have seen it in use for the highly successful ‘Mojo’ season last year. This space:

  • Is suitable for small-scale productions
  • Holds up to 80 people
  • Costs only $100 per night
  • Has lighting and sound facilities
The Future 

Other initiatives we hope to implement in the future to improve your experience at The Basement are:

  • Soundproof the studio theatre space so that shows can run concurrently with the main theatre
  • Construct an additional female toilet downstairs
  • Re-configure the bar and foyer
  • Create our own CHEAP booking system
  • Initiate a feedback system for all users so that you can pinpoint the things you liked about performing at The Basement but also make suggestions for how we can improve even more.
 Regarding this last initiative, we very much welcome your input: we want the acting community to feel heard and a vital part of the ongoing development of The Basement. We as a board are here only to serve our mission statement and ensure the ongoing viability of the venue – any suggestions that can facilitate that are welcome.

I do hope that elucidates our position and aspirations and gets you all just a little bit excited too. The Basement is there for YOU and we hope you will feel a part of its growth.

Thank-you once again for your incredible generosity in all 3 fundraisers held in the past and your support and understanding going into the future.

Best wishes,
The Basement Theatre Trust
Michele Hine
Matt Kenealy
Josh McBride
Rashmi Raman 

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