Totem Theatre makes plans for its second half century

Above: Burger Boys.

By JULIUS DENNIS

 

Six goals, ranging from community engagement to strengthening the identity of the Alice Springs Theatre Group (ASTG), and setting its path for the next three years, will be included in its strategic plan, the first in the organisation’s 56 year history.

 

The plan will be launched at the group’s iconic home, the Totem Theatre, on Friday at 5.30pm, with a free happy hour, musical performances, tours of the venue and a speech by the president, Kris Kidd.

 

She says the plan will provide a sturdy platform for the volunteer organisation which often sees personnel shifts from year to year.

 

Right: Pink Ladies.

 

“It also helps us to identify and consolidate any relationships we have with other arts organisations.”

 

Ms Kidd says a large part of the plan is focused on rejigging the inner workings of the organisation to build a continued sense of identity.

 

This will help ensure that no matter how much change occurs within the organisation, the agenda of remaining a community focused non-for-profit will remain.

 

“Quite often with amateur groups like this, or volunteer run committees, it really depends on who is at the helm, because everybody comes in with their own agenda.”

 

Ms Kidd says she has “a very strong agenda to keep the group as an amateur group, rather than making it grow into being [an] opportunity for people to make a living out of what we offer.

 

“We are purely amateur and that’s the way forward I see.”

 

The plan was funded by a grant received from the NT Government. Facilitator Joanna Henryks helped identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

 

Ms Kidd says that the recent achievements of the ASTG at the Totem Theatre have provided a base for the plan to succeed.

 

These achievements include the huge success of their most recent musical, Grease; theatre classes for children of all ages; the monthly stand-up poetry night, The Dirty Word; and the completion of their outdoor courtyard which will host Friday’s proceedings.

 

The theatre is host to a musical annually and the plan states that the group would like to add an additional yearly play to the bill.

 

The plan’s vision is for the Totem to host “a dynamic Central Australian performing arts scene where local skills and creativity thrive”.

 

Left: The cast and crew from Grease.

 

Ms Kidd says that this means the theatre building, with a history as a venue for hire, provides a cost effective place for creative people from the area and beyond to perform.

 

“We sort of see ourselves as a central facilitator, as well as venue for anybody who wants to be creative in [the] performing arts. The only other option in terms of theatre is Araluen, which is quite prohibitive.”

 

However, for this vision to become reality, the group believes further renovations to the site need to be made.

 

“We’ve been on a drive to upgrade the theatre, we’ve put in new seats [and] air conditioning … we’ve just recently put in a new ceiling, had all the electrics upgraded.

 

“There is still plenty to go because the buildings weren’t built to last.”

 

They were originally built by the Australian Army in 1945.

 

“Ideally we’d like to knock down the old back shed, which isn’t heritage listed, and build a proper dressing room and green room area for performers, because it’s just a tin shed with a dirt floor.”

 

For every upgrade the group must apply for a grant, as well as jump through the hoops regarding heritage listed buildings.

 

Unfortunately, the group’s application for funding for a master plan, expanding on the strategic plan, was recently turned down.

 

Ms Kidd says she will be pleased if the group’s ambitions are achieved within the next 10 years.

 

On the possibility of a national Aboriginal art gallery being built next-door, Ms Kidd says there could be nothing but positive outcomes for the theatre and the group, as it would mean more foot traffic and attention for the area.

 

“We still get a lot of people saying: Oh, I never even knew you existed. And these are long term residents in town.”

 

 

 

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