News | 9 November 2022
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Footnote Dance set to steal the show at the Hannah

Wellington City Council and the Hannah Playhouse Trust have collaborated to bring the iconic venue back to life, and its rejuvenation starts with an exciting new season from Footnote New Zealand Dance.

Evening view of Hannah Playhouse on corner of Courtenay Place

Currently in residence at Hannah Playhouse, Footnote Dance will be presenting the new work, MEA UMA by Elijah Kennar, from 16-19 November.


Council City Events Manager Stephen Blackburn says since taking over the management of the venue, Council has focused on developing the Hannah Playhouse into an important space for the creative sector.


“A performance laboratory if you like, where artists can develop, test and play with new ideas and new ways of working,” says Stephen.


“Last year, the Council’s Aho Tini 2030 Arts, Culture and Creativity Strategy consultation showed the creative sector wanted spaces to develop their skills and perform, and now that it’s being implemented, we are already seeing the results.


“Not only is Footnote currently resident at the Hannah Playhouse, but recently, award-winning Silver Noodle Soup started rehearsing at the Wellington Hockey Stadium as part of the Council’s commitment to provide spaces for the creative sector.  

“We are also pleased to announce Isobel MacKinnon has been appointed as the Manager of the Hannah Playhouse. With her background and experience in theatre, we are looking forward to her vision for the performing arts becoming a reality.”

As a director, writer, and theatre practitioner with over 10 years of experience in event planning and delivery, community collaboration, arts marketing, and creating effective audience experiences, Isobel believes theatre artists’ superpower is all about reimagining new potential for the things at our fingertips.

“I want to see the Hannah grow into more than a presentation venue, but rather a theatre lab that supports artists to work. Art doesn’t grow on trees. Shows don’t arrive fully formed on an artist’s doorstep delivered by a stork.

“I’m also excited for audiences to be able to return to the Hannah, for this windy corner of Courtenay Place to crackle with the kind of live experiences that leave a mark.”

Chair of the Hannah Playhouse Trust, Murray Lynch, says the Trust is pleased to be part of this exciting collaboration with Wellington City Council.   


“As custodians of Sheilah Winn’s original vision, we are fully committed to placing the theatre in the service of the arts sector. As part of the collaboration, the Trust will invest in infrastructure that will allow the Playhouse to return to a flexible space. It starts with upgrading the seating in the first year of the pilot programme.”  


Wellington City Council has taken on the pilot programme for an initial three years, and will contribute $200,000 per annum to the theatre’s operating costs, ensuring the space is an affordable option for creative sector users.   


The Hannah Playhouse Trust will provide technical infrastructure and undertake upgrades to restore flexibility to the performance space over the three-year programme.  

Archives NZ image by G Simpson from 1978 - view of Hannah Playhouse on Courtenay Place
Archives NZ image by G Simpson from 1978 - view of Hannah Playhouse on Courtenay Place

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.