The Hannah Playhouse Trust will provide technical infrastructure and undertake upgrades to restore flexibility to the performance space over the three-year programme.
The Council and the Trust wish to keep the theatre affordable and those using the Hannah will pay hireage fees based on a sliding scale to assist access for independent and local artists.
Currently, the Trust and the Council are working through an MOU and lease arrangements, but it is anticipated the Hannah will re-open in October, and Footnote New Zealand Dance is booked to use the space in November this year.
Brian Wood, General Manager of Footnote New Zealand Dance says they are delighted to once again be performing at The Hannah Playhouse.
“We are excited to be part of working within this performance laboratory space. This year we are presenting ChoreoCo, a new experimental contemporary dance work by Choreographer Elijah Kennar and his five emerging dancers chosen from our professional development workshop Choreolab.”
A statement from the Board of Toi o Taraika Arts Wellington, which represents over 70 members from individual artists to organisations, says: “Wellingtonians agree that creative people and cultural activity is part of what makes Wellington a place where people want to live, work and visit.
“Like any sector, the creative sector needs affordable infrastructure such as venues - and too many have been inaccessible to Pōneke-based artists as they are closed or too expensive. Any initiative that opens up venues for artists and practitioners in a time when space is at a premium and the cost of making and living has risen sharply is welcomed by Arts Wellington.
“After the theatre has been closed for a number of years, we are encouraged by the potential of this project to unlock access to the Hannah Playhouse, as engagement between the Aho Tini team and the performing arts sector gets underway.”
Jonathan Hendry Bats Theatre Chief Executive says: “As close neighbours we look forward to exploring synergies between both spaces to help strengthen pathways and opportunities for our incredible local artists.”
The space will be open for sector bookings from next year, for more information contact Stephen Blackburn at Stephen.Blackburn@wcc.govt.nz.
History of the Hannah Playhouse
The Downstage Theatre company was formed in 1964 and originally presented at Victoria University Memorial theatre and the Paramount Theatre in Courtenay Place.
Harry Seresin negotiated a lease in the Walkabout coffee bar situated on the current Hannah Playhouse site.
The company later took over the building and the upper storey became an adaptable theatre restaurant.
The Hannah Playhouse Trust was formed in 1968. The Trust’s purpose is to encourage, foster, and promote the performing arts for the benefit of the Wellington community, through provision of a theatre venue which was built on the site of the Walkabout.
This was enabled by a very generous gift from Sheilah Winn of $300,000, the Hannah Playhouse was named after her maternal family who had founded the Hannah shoe company.
The brutalist design of the building by architect James Beard has won several awards including The New Zealand Institution of Architects Award in 1978, and the Award for Enduring Architecture in 2006.