October 31, 2014
CENTREPOINT: FORTY YEARS OF PROFESSIONAL THEATRE IN THE MANAWATU
Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North is celebrating its 40th anniversary, as New Zealand’s only professional theatre outside the main centres.
To celebrate the anniversary, novelist, playwright and actor Peter Hawes has written a history of Centrepoint, which will be published online, and in a limited, hard copy version. An illustrated calendar, based on the history, will also be sold to help raise funds for the theatre.
Centrepoint’s first production was An Evening with Katherine Mansfield with leading New Zealand actor Pat Evison. It was staged at the theatre’s first premises, at 81 George Street. Peter Hawes says in those early days Centrepoint operated as a theatre with a restaurant to generate the funds to develop the theatre.
Since then the theatre has produced more than 300 main bill productions and employed more than 2,500 actors, directors and production staff. It has injected more than six million dollars into the Manawatu economy.
In 40 years of set construction, the theatre has used an estimated 10,000,000 nails, screws and brads, 60,000 litres of paint, 50,000 light bulbs, 30,000 sheets of ply, 80,000 metres of timber and 6,000 batteries.
Its professional status has allowed Centrepoint to employ New Zealand’s best known and most successful actors, directors and production staff, providing the Manawatu with entertainment of the highest quality.
Artistic Director Jeff Kingsford-Brown says at times it hasn’t been easy to maintain that quality but the theatre has survived, thanks to the loyalty of its Manawatu audience and other supporters and sponsors. “Our survival probably owes most to our willingness to create and stage productions that reflect the interests and activities of our audience. For example, audiences loved our productions of Netballers, The Newbury Hall Dances and Stockcars: The Musical. They were written for the theatre and based in part on anecdotes and experiences provided from the Manawatu community.”
He says Centrepoint has also staged more New Zealand productions than any other New Zealand theatre, including many premieres, and was the first company to present a full year of New Zealand plays in 1993.
Former Artistic Director and playwright Alison Quigan says her 18 years at Centrepoint allowed her to live the dream. “Through the plays I produced I could make a difference to the community I was living in. I didn’t need to race off to the world and tell stories, the world was right in front of me and the stories I wanted to tell were all around me. Palmerston North is full of treasures, some hidden and some for all to see.”
Jeff Kingsford-Brown says the people of the Manawatu have been incredibly supportive over the past 40 years. Through our successes and setbacks you have continued to have faith in us.”
Jeff says Centrepoint truly belongs to the community and the plays that are staged reflect this. “We want to continue to be a vibrant, accessible, popular and relevant theatre that fosters young talent and serves our loyal local community.
“We look forward to continued community support in the decades to come. We can’t survive without it!”
Centrepoint’s latest production is a comedy called The Pink Hammer by New Zealand writer Michele Amas. The season ends on 13 December.
The History According to Peter Hawes can be found at www.centrepoint.co.nz from early November.