The Building of the Little Theatre

By Neville Pond

The Little Theatre was constructed from the old Matamata Post Office, a building of nearly 3000 square feet, which was moved in one piece from Arawa Street onto the site in Short Street.  The contract for moving was let to Wilcox Engineering and took five days to complete, with the actual moving done by Johnston.  The Old Post Office was placed on its new site on 10 October 1963.

The Post Office building provided the auditorium and stage areas and a new addition was build along the side to provide dressing rooms, property room, kitchen and ladies room.  We obtained the services of Mr Frank Garity (a carpenter) and worked with him as much as possible.  Work had to stop for a time when the Society ran out of money which was raised with ‘bring-and buy’ stalls, raffles and small donations  On 8 July 1964, the Matamata Borough Council granted a permit for us to operate the building as a Little Theatre.

The Building Committee consisted of Bert Wrigley, Doug Cain and Neville Pond together with the President, Miss Viola Bell.  There was also an Interior Decorating Committee consisting of Miss Bell, Mrs Nancy Pond, Mrs Ruth Downes and Mrs June Were.

Until 1971, the sound and lighting boxes were combined and the, in 1975, they where shifted to the old entry foyer.  An old stables existed next to Simpson Carpet factory which, until it was demolished in the early 1970s, contained the theatre’s wardrobe.  At this time, the brick addition at the front of  the theatre was build and, for a few years, the front half housed the wardrobe.  The Bar now in existence, was actually built as a temporary setting for a June Were play and it was built so well and looked so in character,  its been in the foyer every since.  In 1976 the committee decided to replace the stage area.  The entire existing stage, floor and roof were demolished, excavation work proceeded and, under the direction of Mr Len Sharp (who also drew up the plans), a new and larger stage was b7uilt with storage area for wardrobe and props (plus dressing rooms) underneath.

For a few years, though, there were regular and serious problems with flooding downstairs – members being rung up at strange hours and asked to come down to the theatre to help bail out the water.  The problem was eventually solved but at the cost of losing quite a few costumes and props.  Irregular working bees of active members take place at the theatre in an endeavour to maintain it.  Painting, dusting, tidying etc. are chores which are never quite finished.

Former Matamata Post Office, built in 1912, was moved from its Arawa-Tui Streets corner site to the Matamata Dramatic Society’s site in Short Street last week.  Removal organisation took five days to complete, then the last Wednesday saw the finale.