Parkes Musical & Dramatic Society

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History Part 5 - The Little Theatre Emerges

Pt5 Photo1 Theatre Construction FoundationsAfter weeks of cleaning bricks, mixing concrete for the foundations, the back grinding effort started to pay off with the walls of the theatre moving skyward, to the delight of members. With the help of tradesman, such as bricklayers, carpenters and plumbers from the Apex Club, the building was completed to the wall plate stage by early 1956, under the supervision of Jack Davis and Bill Robinson, the honorary architect. Unfortunately despite the efforts of members, the money ran out so Council was approached for a grant to roof the theatre and externally finish the building. Council agreed to provide 1,000 pounds, providing two Councillors, Ken Payne and Eric Nash were appointed to the management committee.

 

The Society at this stage was still 499pounds in debt, however with a guarantee from the Chamber of Commerce and a donation of 625pounds from Apex, the hall was more or less completed to the lock up stage with the addition of porch, steps, plastering, curtains and lights.

To get to this phase, members went flat out with stage productions with two Xmas revues, Canibal Capers in 1955 and Artists and Muddles in 1956, plus each of those years staging a Night at the Theatre which entailed four and five one act plays respectively. On such evenings members appeared in more than one play, either acting, directing or working back stage. One such play, Hot Water, had Marj Pittendrigh, Max Phipps, Ken Reid, Elizabeth Hood, Tom Cole and Joan Tucker, all of whom were involved elsewhere.Pt5 Photo3 Theatre Construction Kitchen

Two musicals were also performed in this two year period, The Chocolate Soldier, previously mentioned in the last column and New Moon, produced by George Pittendrigh, his swan song before leaving Parkes and with Nora Sivyer, as musical director. The cast included a lot of members already mentioned but also Bob Watters, Ken Brokenshire, Malcolm Mclean, Val Densmore and Cliff Cowell, who incidently, as a licenced electrician, did a lot of the original wiring in the theatre. New Moon was to be one of the last productions by the M & D in the Orange Hall, future shows were mainly staged in the new theatre.

Pt5 Photo2 Theatre Construction EntranceIn June 1957, the Society hosted the Central West Drama Association Festival, with entries from Forbes, Trundle, Orange, Bathurst, Wellington and Cowra whose play The Apple Tree, won the major award. Parkes play was The Rose and the Crown and was awarded second prize by Robert Quentin, the adjudicator. Max Phipps who played the part of the Stranger, although only on stage for a very short time was awarded best actor, much to the delight of Parkes, although not surprising considering his future career path.

On the Saturday afternoon ,in front of a packed audience, Mr Robert Quentin, from the Elizabethan Trust Opera, officially opened the Little Theatre, he stated “It is of particular pleasure to participate in the opening as there had been only two new theatres opened in Australia since the war.”

The Little Theatre has evolved over the years into one of the best intimate theatres west of the Blue Mountains, but more of that later.

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