Amateur theatre on the Coast is facing a big loss with the news that Peninsula Players is likely to close after almost 40 years.
The club, which was formed by the late Ernie Stanley in 1980, is holding an annual meeting on April 30 which Players long time member Robin Espie says will “formalise the winding up of the society”, although that final decision rests with members.
Robin first performed with the Players in the 1980s and says it’s been a great club but no longer has enough members to make it sustainable.
He is one of several members who say that the loss of the group’s former home base and theatre venue at Whangaparaoa Hall, in 2011, was a key nail in the coffin.
Since then Peninsula Players has operated out of a building in Brightside Road, Stanmore Bay but this offered limited performance and storage space and was used mainly for meetings and rehearsals.
Robin says recently a small group of members had found a suitable venue for performances and were going to resurrect one of their shows, but there were not enough members to make it work.
The club has a proud record of mentoring the Coast’s young performers, technicians and stagehands, as well as giving them their first taste of live theatre. Many later went on to roles at Centrestage and beyond.
“We’ve faced tough times in the past but managed to keep going due to the wide support that Peninsula Players enjoys from the community,” Robin says. “But I believe that, despite all our efforts, this is the end of the road.”
Peninsula Players saved my life
Local actor Shelley Charlton credits Peninsula Players with saving her life.
“I was depressed, heading for divorce, with no friends on the Coast and no family in NZ,” she says. “I was considering suicide. However, I decided to do something scary instead and auditioned for my first play since leaving school, 22 years before.”
She was cast in Peninsula Players’ production of Dad’s Army, which lit a spark within her for amateur theatre and introduced her to many new friends.
Shelley went on to write, direct and produce a Blackadder series, initially at the Players’ Brightside Road venue. “We had so much fun. It wasn’t the most polished performance but we got the laughs and applause from a supportive audience.”
The shows went on to further success at Centrestage.
Shelley says it is very important to keep amateur theatre going for those not ready for Centrestage, or who want a more casual approach or to try out new things.
She is hopeful that The Performance Lab, started by Phil Lodge from Whangaparaoa Library may fill that gap.