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March 28, 2011 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Theatre Outside of the CBD

This week Salient talked to Mary Collie-Holmes, artistic director of Khandallah Arts Theatre, about KAT’s place in the Wellington theatre scene.

This article is appearing in Salient’s Communities issue and some readers might conclude that Khandallah Arts Theatre is a community theatre. How do you feel about this term being applied to KAT?

My understanding is that when “community theatre” is applied to professional theatre it is an attempt to differentiate between wholly commercial theatre, which is funded soley through ticket sales, and partially commercial theatre (community theatre), which is funded through a mix of ticket sales, sponsorships and grants.

“Community” is quite a useful word, and I’m happy for it to be applied to KAT. It’s better than “recreational theatre”, which I’ve heard some people use, because “recreational” doesn’t imply that there is an audience involved and the audience is as crucial to the existence of a theatre as are the actors and all the others who make a play happen. Without the audience there would be no theatre, just a bunch of people pretending to be other people.

What do you see as the main difference between the experience an audience member might have at Khandallah Arts Theatre and a theatre such as BATS or Circa? Audiences aside, what differentiates KAT from BATS and Circa?

Being a community theatre in a group of suburbs where the predominant population is quite conservative, our audiences get to experience “safe” and familiar theatre on the whole. We do occasionally have a go at something a bit edgy, because some of our actors and directors really want to do so, but those productions don’t usually attract big audiences – our audiences like to see plays that they already know.

While our members don’t have the theatre training that underpins Circa productions, their attitude to their work is just as dedicated as a professional’s and we can achieve a pretty high standard of performance on occasion, though it’s never as slick as a Circa production of course. And we don’t have the resources for special effects and professional-looking sets and we are always under-rehearsed because of people’s commitments to their ‘real’ jobs.


the productions at Khandallah Arts Theatre reviewed? If not, would you welcome reviews?

Yes, we would welcome reviews. It was a great sadness when The Dom Post decided to drop its reviews of the suburban community theatre productions. I still don’t understand why a community theatre doesn’t warrant column space when so many community sports events do.

They do review our summer play-in-the-park because it’s for children, but that’s as far as it goes. And the Wellington District Theatre Federation has a plan to encourage a group of members to review each other’s productions and put those reviews onto the Federation’s website, but that idea hasn’t come to fruition yet.

Reviews are useful as a marketing tool but, if intelligently written, they are also useful as a starting point for debate on what does and does not make for a good performance and a good production.

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