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Historic Theatre 44 gets a spruce up

Theatre 44, the home of Broken Hill’s Repertory Society (BHRS), has received a facelift.

Gary Bowden and Chris Dougherty volunteered to paint the outside of the theatre and have been hard at work preparing the venue for the upcoming Swinging on a Star concert.
Fisk and Selena Nagas from Globe Home Timber and Hardware kindly donated the paint for the project.

Theatre 44 is part of the character and history of Broken Hill, and local support is critical for the continuation of volunteer organisations such as this.

Mrs Marilyn Harris, the BHRS Secretary, said it was wonderful to have people from the community who value the theatre and were willing to work to improve it.

The people currently involved with Theatre 44 and the BHRS would like to see a new generation become more involved with the operational side of the theatre.

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“I’d like to see a group of people become involved who are keen to keep the place going,” Mrs Harris said.

As volunteers age, there is always a risk of closure as support drops off. That happened to BHRS at the end of the 1980s and Theatre 44 almost closed.

But then folks like John and Marilyn Harris rallied to keep the theatre in production.

Mrs Harris has been with the BHRS for 30 years and has helped produce 50 of the BHRS shows during that time.

“We are hoping we might have some new directors putting on plays in the near future,” Mrs Harris said.

One of the main challenges for any director is finding other adult volunteers who can commit the time needed for rehearsals, said Mrs Harris.

Theatre 44 takes its name from when the Broken Hill Repertory Society first began, in 1944.

The theatre was built in 1963 with the help of local mining groups.

The building has lighting and sound equipment and BHRS recently installed heating for the comfort of the 180-seat audience.

The theatre has an enormous amount of dust that needs regular cleaning, so they are looking at dust reduction building modifications, said Mrs Harris.

Initially, the BHRS aims to line the stage area and change the louvre windows, if they can find the necessary funds and supplies.

Each year Mrs Harris applies for the Broken Hill City Council’s community assistance grant, and that helps toward the rates and insurance for the building.

They are considering other building improvements, including a mural designed by the younger people involved with the BHRS.

Once they have the appropriate approval for the mural, they will be looking for painters.

Mrs Harris says she was attracted to Theatre 44 because it gave local people opportunities and possibilities for creative pursuit.

“I loved having the opportunity to pursue some music with older and younger people, and it allowed me to help children learn how to sing and perform,” Mrs Harris said.

“The theatre has greatly boosted Broken Hill kids’ abilities and careers, with some of the kids working on the RFDS TV show,” she said.

This year the theatre has produced the Fairytale Spectacular and will be presenting Swinging on a Star on August 21.

The troupe are hoping to hold a Christmas concert later in the year.

BHRS hosted Nat Gilkes from Marion Street Theatre for young people in Sydney who visited and held a two-day workshop with the kids.

High school teachers run the Moxie Drama Club for kids aged 8 to 15 at Theatre 44, and the Expression Glee Ensemble for similar-aged kids meets every Sunday evening.

Private groups and organisations are also welcome to hire the hall for events and productions.

Anyone interested in discovering more about the theatre’s history and the BHRS can read Mrs Harris’s book, Dust and Drama.

More information available from Marilyn Harris on 0413 905 048.

The troupe at the Broken Hill Repertory Society are presenting Swinging on a Star next Sunday, August 21.

Broken Hill residents are invited to the show to hear a variety of music and song from Jazz to Contemporary, plus a tribute to the late Olivia Newton-John.

The Expression Glee Ensemble (aged 6 to 15) will perform several modern songs, with Sanny Dougherty and her granddaughter, Grace, assisting with choreography.

The Moxie Drama group will compere the show which starts at 2:00pm.

The venue now accepts EFTPOS. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 concession, and $8 for schoolchildren and are only available for purchase at the door.

A canteen will also be available, and all proceeds will support Theatre 44.

More information is available from Marilyn Harris on 0413 905 048.

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