September 10 2018 by Blaise Barham
Remarkable Theatre, originally Queenstown Shakespeare, welcomed me with open arms in 2000 when I first came to town and immediately made me feel part of the local community. It is a local theatre company and charity run by a committed team of volunteers.
Nearly 30 years on from Remarkable Theatre’s inception, the world and Queenstown have become a very different place. The closure of professional theatre company Fortune Theatre in Dunedin earlier this year made me wonder if there was still a place for ‘community theatre’ in this new age of social media where people’s focus is more on themselves. In a world where holding a viewer’s attention for ten seconds is seen as a success online, what hope does theatre have in keeping people entertained for two hours?
The ‘live’ connection is special. Seeing the touring play ‘Seed’ in Arrowtown recently reminded me of that. The communal feeling of hearing another audience member cracking up or that mutual empathy of everyone sympathising with a character on stage is something very special and innate in us all. Anyone who saw the troubled characters at Whirlwind’s recent production of ‘Crazy’ will immediately know what I mean.
Similarly, the passion some members of our community have for putting on a good show is huge. I’ve been amazed by the amount of voluntary time our committee (of 10 people), cast (15) and production team (30 people and still growing!) have put into our upcoming show over the last few months. It is clear that the community feeling I felt 20 years ago is definitely still alive. I’ve also been blown away by the local support from sponsors, many of whom are small, family-owned local companies, who have given their time and money to help with the show.
However, there has been a major setback for the arts community; a laundrette fire earlier this year resulted in the loss of the rehearsal and storage space shared with fellow performing arts group Showbiz. It contributed to Showbiz having to cancel their show and Remarkable Theatre will be homeless after our upcoming show. (Many thanks to SIT and SLEC for lending us space temporarily!)
Despite this, the tide is still changing, and the arts are coming to the forefront in that search for a ‘heart and soul’ for Queenstown, and a break from the tourism conveyor belt. I urge everyone to keep supporting community projects. Give the stage and its actors your eyes instead of your screen. If you would like community theatre to continue to thrive in Queenstown, please support your community show AWAY by Michael Gow at Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall from 12 - 22 September. Tickets are available on Eventfinda or at the Arrowtown Museum. And if you’d like to be involved in the local theatre community or learn some acting skills, come along to our free monthly Remarkable Theatre nights at The Sherwood.
Blaise Barham (President – Remarkable Theatre)