The Playhouse Theatre, Bundaberg, is home to the Bundaberg Players Inc.
Bundaberg Players is a group of volunteers dedicated to working together to promote the arts in the Wide Bay region, while learning new skills and making friends as part of a dynamic community organisation.
The Bundaberg Players stage six productions a year across a broad range of genres, including comedies, thrillers, musical, theatre restaurants, rehearsed readings and youth productions.
What significant events do you hold each year?
We have some incredible shows on this year – (which started) with the musical Shrek in March, followed by Glorious, a hilarious true story this month, our Youth Theatre production of The Addams Family in June/July, Theatre Restaurant Rome Sweet Rome in August, classic drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in October and a great comedy The Vicar of Dibley in November/December.
What is the history of Bundaberg Players?
We were first established in 1950 and have performed 489 shows since then.
Rehearsals for many years were conducted in the Girl Guide Hall, Austral Hall and a room at the back of the School of Arts building.
Productions were presented in the Parish Hall and the Wintergarden Theatre (most recently Blockbuster Video and Improvements Fitness Centre) corner of Woongarra and Maryborough Streets.
It became increasingly evident that if progress was to be made, a theatre solely for the use of the Players would have to be obtained.
In 1962, land was purchased and in 1964 the first stage of construction by the Amateur Players on the present Steffensen Street site was completed at a cost of almost £2000.
This building provided the society with a practice hall (present clubrooms) and storage area for costumes, paint and props (present kitchen), all under one roof.
The Playhouse as it became known was the first building built by an organisation of this kind in the city.
A “workshop” was then instituted for the provision of aspiring stage performers.
The continual construction and transporting of scenery to other performance venues necessitated the construction of further storage at the Playhouse site, and a shed was built at the back of the block in 1965.
When the Embassy Theatre in Maryborough closed down in 1966, the Bundaberg Amateur Players purchased seats with the intention of installing them in their own theatre when the funds became available to build a stage area onto the existing clubroom.
Bundaberg's own little theatre really came into its own, when on Monday, April 29, 1968, the Bundaberg Amateur Players staged their first performance on the “biggest theatre stage in Bundaberg” which they had constructed onto their existing building at a cost of £7800.
The practice hall became the auditorium and the audience faced west to the stage. The auditorium seated 175.
The Youth Theatre building was built in 1974 and at a very reasonable cost provided much needed workshop space for the large and very active Youth Theatre section of the group.
The next major construction provided the organisation with a tiered auditorium seating 254 patrons.
What was once the back wall of the stage area became the new Proscenium Arch and the audience now faced east.
The official opening of the new auditorium was held on Saturday 20 March 1976. Cost of this was $27, 500.
Expansions and renovations continue
Small scale expansion commenced in 1977 with the pouring of a slab on the car park side of the club rooms which would be a bar and committee room.
However, this was not completed until September 1979.
The steel-framed walls of the new committee room were at one time the walls of the Federal Hotel which had undergone renovations not long before.
The old committee room on the Youth Theatre building then became a storage area for the fast-growing costume department.
The Bundaberg Amateur Players in September 1987 became The Bundaberg Players Incorporated, and with the name change came a new motivation to upgrade the facility.
Plans were conceived, drawn, rethought and drawn again, sent to the government, returned to the organisation for improvement, and sent to the government again.
The government approved the project in principle and agreed to a "dollar for dollar" subsidy, and on 24 April 1990, 49 members of the organisation decided to go ahead with the new foyer at a total cost of $209,000.
The Gordon Dick Memorial Foyer, named in honour of the former president whose dream it was, was officially opened on 22 February 1991 by the Justice and Corrective Services Minister, Glen Milliner.
The entrance begins at the footpath giving patrons overhead cover as they enter the foyer.
A large open area has been provided for additional rehearsal space, with room to mark out a full size stage, which will be of great assistance in the training of youth theatre members.
While the foyer has been named after Gordon Dick, the auditorium itself has been dedicated to Skip and Helen Cattermull, foundation vice-president and director of the original Players organisation.
During the 1990s only small-scale improvements were made around the theatre as committees of the day built up bank account balances and made plans for impending 50th anniversary celebrations which were nearing.
A major change occurred in 2000 when auditorium seating was refurbished and the auditorium painted at a cost of $46,000 ($15,000 in funding was received).
The Tim Kimber ‘Full House Bar’ was also constructed in the upstairs foyer at a cost of $28,000.
Bundaberg Players Incorporated celebrated 50 years of existence on December 2, 2000 with a concert at the Moncrieff Theatre featuring former members invited back to perform alongside current members of the day.
In 2003, the storage shed constructed in 1965 was demolished to make way for a much larger, modern block with showers and amenities, and a much larger area for the construction and storage of scenery.
A shade-sail was installed in 2014 joining the storage shed to the rear of the main building creating a shaded courtyard area for members to enjoy.
Funding to the value of $26,950 was received in 2009 for the encapsulation of the main auditorium and foyer rooves, and a new ticketing system Seat Advisor was installed and ticketing went electronic for the first time, allowing patrons to book and pay for tickets online.
In 2010, funding totalling $27,000 was received from the Jupiter’s Community Benefit Fund for the purchase of chairs, music stands, instruments and sundry items for the orchestra pit.
A major re-configuring of the orchestra pit was then undertaken in 2011 – it was deepened and made longer and wider, so that more scope was created for live orchestras to play more comfortably.
This project cost $46,000 and was paid for solely by theatre funds.
In 2012, a major upgrade to the electrical backbone of the theatre was made possible with the infusion of $34,960 from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund.
An access ramp alongside the northern wall of the auditorium was constructed at a cost of $26,500 – $10,000 was donated by Subscriber Peter Collins in memory of his wife Dawn.
Although funding was sought on a number of occasions, it was not until 2018, that funding totalling $35,000 was received to renovate and upgrade the aging toilet facilities in the Gordon Dick Memorial Foyer.
At a total cost of $86,000, the project increased the number of toilets available to patrons and also created an easily accessible disabled toilet.
At the same time, the foyer interior was repainted and new carpet installed to the stairwell and the upstairs foyer $8000.
The driveway and rear courtyard were re-surfaced with hot mix in 2018, and guttering was replaced to the front section of the building at a cost of $7500.
The next year, 2019 was also a year of high expenditure on capital improvements.
The auditorium was air-conditioned with six units at a cost of $25,000, installation was done free of charge by a theatre supporter.
A new fridge was purchased for the foyer kitchen $2500, and a further $23,700 was spent on a starcloth, three backdrops, two data projectors, two scrims, and other staging items, including the installation of a steel girder above the stage area specifically for the purpose of ‘flying’ the character of Mary Poppins.
Another $27,000 was spent in 2020 for the purchase of nine Acme Moving Lights. New speakers and a Digital Sound desk were also installed.
External painting of the main building occurred in 2021 at a cost of $33,000 after funding was received.
The committee room was airconditioned at a cost of $2,000 and planter pots and pebbles were also added alongside the access ramp to improve the theatre’s aesthetic upon arrival.
As part of our aim of continual improvement, some ambitious plans are underway to improve facilities.
Why is the group important to the Bundaberg Region?
Performing arts are so important, not only for the enjoyment of our patrons, but also for the growth and development of our members.
Literally thousands of people have increased their theatre skills, made lifelong friends and given enjoyment to patrons during our 73 years.
How can the community become involved?
We welcome new members at any time during the year.
You don't have to have any theatrical experience to join, if you can hold a paint brush or a broom you can help, if can't don't worry we can teach you.
Members are asked to volunteer their time and participate, in whatever capacity they can, in the maintenance and operation of the theatre facilities.
Running an amateur theatre company involves many departments, here are a few areas in which members can participate and assist: acting, singing, dancing, directing, backstage, clerical, décor, front of house, kitchen, lighting, makeup, newsletter, prompting, props, publicity, set construction, social committee, ticket sales and wardrobe.
For a small annual fee you receive great benefits over non-members.
When and where do you meet?
The Playhouse Theatre is at 2B Steffensen Street Bundaberg.
We have working bees most Sunday mornings from 9 am-noon and people interested in becoming members are welcome to pop in and join us for morning tea at 10.30 am.
Before each production we have an information night a few weeks before auditions and everyone is welcome to come along and find out what is involved in each production.
The Playhouse Theatre’s latest play – the hilarious Glorious – the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins – is on now.
Book online here or at the box office one hour before performance time.
Bundaberg Players Inc’s latest project is to transform the theatre with new seating and lighting box. Their first fundraiser is the sale of exclusive Bundaberg Monopoly games that feature the Playhouse Theatre.
Games will be $72, including a Top Trumps game, to celebrate 72 years of local theatre in Bundaberg.
The games are due in August, but patrons wishing to be part of the fundraiser can go on the VIP Wait List: while shows are on, Sunday mornings or by emailing email@example.com.