Milestones are coming thick and fast now as the refurbishment and seismic strengthening of the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre in Rotorua gathers pace.
(Pic: L-R Kevin Greene, Cian Elyse White, Katrina Chandra. Photo by Jo Doherty)
Kevin Greene has just been appointed Technical Design & Delivery Lead, previously a freelance lighting designer and technical/ production manager with Auckland Theatre Company, New Zealand Opera Company and the Auckland Arts Festival on the resume. Joining him is Katrina Chandra as the Programme Delivery Manager. Katrina has held array of technical/director roles for Bats, Taki Rua, Silo, Playmarket, Mangere Arts Centre and Snuff Puppets.
Performing Arts Director, Cian Elyse White, appointed back in 2019, has already initiated a new community-based annual festival – Aronui – Rotorua Indigenous Arts Festival. It is taking place in a range of locations around the city, using alternative venues until the Sir Howard Morrison Centre is ready to become Aronui’s home hub. Cian is also lining up a dance festival and musicals to take advantage of the new timber floor!
The new look Centre offers a lot more than a new floor. It will be the only one thousand-seat theatre in the Central North Island. Additional facilities include a flexible black box theatre seating up to three hundred people, a new foyer, cafe, bar and courtyard area, and multi-purpose studios for workshops, rehearsals and recording. Acoustics, air conditioning systems and theatre services are all being upgraded, the number of toilets increased, and accessibility enhanced, including a lift that can fit the baby grand piano!
Architects Shand Shelton are working with First Light, Marshall Day Acoustics and Ngāti Whakue designer artist Henriata Nicholas. Hawkins were awarded the $17.44M construction contract for this Category 1 heritage building. The site is a hive of activity with fifty builders on site daily. The new floor in the auditorium is down, floors are going in in the concert chamber, a lot of the timber work is completed, scaffolding is up for painting and they are waiting for the orchestra pit to arrive from overseas. Work is expected to be finished by November 2021, followed by final fit-out and commissioning of the building. The completed facility is expected to re-open mid-2022.
Prior to closure, the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre operated as a venue for hire. The new operating model will actively programme performances, both local and touring. This programme will be supported by revenue generated from conferences, exhibitions and meetings, and food and beverages, ensuring affordable hire rates for the community.
The aim is for community to be at the heart of the strategy with the Rotorua Lakes Council Team committed to reaching and engaging with the community, programming the types of performances and shows that locals want to see. We look forward to chatting to Kevin in a few months about the technical vision for the new look centre.
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