13 Apr 2023

Meet Gus Sharp – the new General Manager of the Waikato Regional Theatre

by Jenny Barrett

Gus Sharp joined the Waikato Regional Theatre team as General Manager on February 20th and has relished every minute to date, “I keep expecting to turn over a rock and find a snake but everything so far has been incredibly positive.” Gus has stepped into a role that rarely presents itself, “No team has built an independent theatre of this size from the bottom up in New Zealand in recent memory. It is an amazing opportunity. We can question everything, what works and what doesn’t. It is like a business start-up but in the world of theatre. I’m absolutely jazzed.”

Gus brings extensive experience in the events industry, “I have excellent relationships with promoters and the production side of the industry meaning I can engage with experts as we develop the theatre management and production systems.” Prior to moving to Hamilton, Gus managed Events, Sales and Planning for WellingtonNZ, the capital’s council-funded Economic Development Agency responsible for attracting and supporting events across Wellington City venues, “I worked with a whole host of promoters and the various back of house teams from the TSB Arena to Shed6 to deliver performance and business events so I understand what makes a venue work from a number of perspectives. I want to make sure this theatre works for everyone.”

On the other side of the coin, Gus brings an understanding of the arts sector having spent two years as CEO at the helm of the Creative Capital Arts Trust responsible for CubaDupa and the New Zealand Fringe Festival, “I guess I’m that pretty rare beast that understands the crossover between the traditional arts, community arts and the more commercial music industry. I speak those different languages and critically understand the importance of translating for different people.”

Gus’s legal knowledge stems from having practiced law for a period, “I have the organisational and legal skills to bring order to the chaos that can sometimes be the arts world, but practicing law also made me realise how much I enjoyed events. I appreciate the very defined start and finish. You plan, set up, deliver, and then it is over and you start again. That is very compelling, whereas a ten year intellectual property litigation wasn’t!”

Gus’s vision for the Waikato Regional Theatre is to see the venue integrate into the lives of the local community, “In the UK for example you have the pub where people meet up and feel comfortable and relax. I want audiences visiting our theatre to feel at home, from arriving front of house to the event itself. We need to be chameleon-like, providing the perfect ambience for people who want to see the symphony orchestra, to families coming to watch kid’s entertainment, to adults wanting a night of comedy.” Gus wants the theatre to adapt to it’s audience, “If it is a kid’s show, we don’t want them to have to stay seated; if it’s a local dance school we don’t want airs and graces; if it is our orchestra patrons, we do want the pomp. I envision that the theatre itself will enhance and shift focus to whatever is on stage.”

The plan is currently for the theatre to open its doors in October 2024, “We have an amazing team at RDT Pacific who are project managing the construction on our behalf, working with the project lead Charcoalblue, a UK theatre design company, partner architect JASMAX and contractor Fosters.” Gus and his team meanwhile are scoping the theatre management systems and fit-out, “We want a full technical rig that fits most everyone and are working with clients and production companies to identify what that looks like. We’ll aim to start spending early ’24. As an independent theatre we don’t have the funding to hold staff too far in advance of the doors opening so we will use consultants as required and look to appoint a Technical Manager later in 2024.”

Whilst predominantly focused on getting the doors open, Gus is also committed to developing an operating model that fosters arts development within the local community, “We will definitely be working with local schools, community and theatre groups, not only providing dance and drama workshops, cultural open days and the like but also the back of house training that our industry so desperately needs.”

Gus welcomes anyone interested in a tour of the back of house further down the track to contact him and with an eye as always on the budget, directs our readers’ attention to the Waikato Regional Theatre’s fundraising website


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