Making quality theatre accessible to our local community

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2017 President’s Report – Fred Preston

Stepping into the shoes of former President, Maryanne Doolan, was always going to be a big task, and it was with pleasure that I learned that Maryanne was to remain on the Committee for guidance and assistance throughout the year, along with most of the Committee members.
September and October saw the preparation for the November production of ‘Humble Boy’ so ably directed by Gay Bell who, as usual, put in many hours of work with her production team to make the show a success. Her endeavours were rewarded by a Virtual Oscar for Best Director (Non-Musical Production) 2016 from Colin Mockett’s ‘Entertainment Geelong’ website, and several glowing reviews including the Victorian Drama League’s and Gail Chrisfield’s. The TTT website has the reviews online.
‘Humble Boy’ was also nominated for Best Non-Musical Production 2016, Best Lead Actor (Non-Musical Production) 2016 (for which Michael Baker was a joint Runner-Up), Best Female Lead Actor (Non-Musical Production) (Terry Roseburgh), Best Female Support Actor (Non-Musical Production) (Lisa Berry) and Best Male Support Actor (Non-Musical Production) (Fred Preston).
‘Humble Boy’ was TTT’s first foray into online bookings using TryBooking (.com). Despite some trepidation about the potential effect on ticket purchases using online booking and the perception that some of our patrons would not like having to use a computer, the Committee took the bold step of introducing the system in the knowledge that it would benefit us administratively. A small number of patrons required assistance with booking and, in recognition of this, TTT arranged for booking assistance (only when monies have been paid). This proved successful during the May production. Ticket sales were a little lower than the November production but this was not specifically attributable to TryBooking. We continued with TryBooking for the May 2017 production (The Laramie Project) also with success.

In November, TTT appointed Zina Carman as Director of the May 2017 production “The Laramie Project” – of which more in a moment.
The TTT Christmas Party was held at the home of George and Zina Carman – a venue which was light-heartedly mooted as a good venue for an outdoor performance. We thank George and Zina for their generosity and hope they are having a lovely trip overseas.
Just prior to Christmas 2016, the Committee gathered to prepare a list of specifications for a theatre in Torquay. Details are on the TTT website under ‘The Future” menu. Progress on the prospect of a theatre is necessarily slow but we are in touch with a representative from the Surf Coast Shire who is keeping us informed of any developments. It’s still a matter of “hurry up and wait” but at least we have some useful specifications ready for when the time comes. Thanks again to George Carman and Michael Baker whose technical knowledge has been invaluable.
In preparation for more complex or demanding lighting and sound-intensive plays in future, we invested nearly two thousand dollars in a new lighting board with many advanced features which, despite some technical issues at the start of one of the Laramie Performances, is the one we intend to use for our November 2017 production. We also plan to return some of our savings into a new lighting trolley, specifically designed for the suite of equipment we use and for lights we may invest in in the future. This will make the safe transfer of equipment an easier task.
Some of our seating platforms were loaned to the Rotary Club for their annual foreshore classic car extravaganza. This loan was in the spirit of community-building and is an annual event.
“The Laramie Project”, our major production for early 2017, drew some new talent from the community to participate in the play. Kath O’Neill, Cat Crowe, Dianne Buttigieg, Rob Pow and Sindi Renae all delivered their first lines on stage for TTT. ‘The Laramie Project’ challenged, engaged, moved and certainly impressed our audiences. TryBooking was used again for ticketing and TTT once again provided phone support for people preferring a more manual booking method. Audience numbers were more than adequate for each performance and profit from the play was good. It was a moving play for many of the audience and contrasts with our play selection for November 2017 which is David Williamson’s “When dad married Fury” – the rights for which are the most expensive we have paid so far.
April saw TTT financially and materially assist the St Luke’s Anglican church with the purchase of an electric wheelchair for Jenny Stewart, our lighting technician for several years. It initially proved a boon to Jenny and we wish her all the very best from all of us and a more speedy recovery in future.
Several new subcommittees were established in February to make recommendations to the Committee about the following:
• The future of “Membership” of TTT – particularly focusing on whether we can and should establish a financial membership status for people who have an interest in TTT; what we could offer them; what administrative tasks would be necessary to support a membership base; what the benefits and disadvantages would be of a “Member” system as opposed to simply having a list of “interested” members and so on. The Subcommittee met in late August – performances, holidays and other engagements having intervened to delay the get-together. Peter, Zina, Maryanne and Fred met and started the discussion and will report at the next general meeting.
• A TTT Newsletter – dealing with the when, how and what of creating a newsletter and the editorial tasks required to publish a quality document. A subcommittee of Lisa, Gay, Zina and XXX? met and defined some parameters for the production, content, frequency and distribution method of a newsletter and two copies have been sent out since using Mailchimp campaigns to over 400 members on our email list. We look forward to the next issue in November.
• Our database of ‘supporters’ – recommending specifically on the sources of data for the database, administrative tasks relating to input and reporting on the database; sorting, filtering methods, access rights (including security and privacy of data), storage location, distribution and control of data. Fred and Robert Roseburgh met and set the guidelines for data management which will need a little revision but has made data available in the cloud to specific end-users.
The subcommittees were very responsive and made positive and thoughtful recommendations to the Committee which were discussed and implemented and I thank the subcommittee members for taking on these extra duties.
I took a brief interlude for some overseas travel in June/July and I’d like to thank Michael Baker (Vice President) for taking the reins for that period.
The one-act play for the year was “The Eulogy” written by John Cundill, Directed by Gay Bell and performed excellently by Maryanne Doolan and Lachie Errey. The performances and Gay’s direction were supported by Marie Darby with great reliability as ever. Fred did the small sound effects. At Kithbrooke, Star of the Sea and our ‘Price street theatre’ audiences enjoyed the show and subsequent food. The Price street audience appreciated the chance to hear the cast answer questions and we took the opportunity to promote the November production as well. At the one-act play festival in Anglesea on 27 August, Lachie and Maryanne brought out their best performance. We got a mention from the adjudicator to say that the chemistry between the actors was excellent and their performance was very professional. Sadly this didn’t convert into an Award on the day but by all accounts the competition was pretty stiff. Well done to all concerned regardless and ‘The Eulogy” will be on again on 11th October, as part of Mental Health Week, for a dinner show at the Wyndham Resort in Torquay all being well.
Michael Baker is now into the thick of the action with the November production which will need a lot of publicity to encourage people to attend the first week of the show which, traditionally, has slightly lower numbers. We look forward to the premier on-stage performance of one of our Committee, Gay Bell and we are hopeful that a replacement for Scott can be found at short notice.
Finally, we are looking forward to Colin Mockett’s Geelong’s Theatre Awards Ceremony on 26 November at the Potato Shed and / or the VDL Awards event on 3 December in Murrumbeena. We wish the ‘Laramie Project’ team, cast, crew, production and direction all the best at the VDL Awards.
Thanks again to our very capable Secretary, Erika Turner, and Treasurer Peter Whitnall who get stuff done in the background with no fuss; to my Vice President for his advice and support and most particularly to our excellent Committee who attend meetings whether hot or cold, ill or well, busy or not. Your commitment is greatly appreciated. We look forward to another profitable coming year and I’m going to start running a book on who will be President when we finally get our dedicated theatre.