Otaki Players - At The Civic

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About Us & History

About Us

Otaki Players is a vibrant group of locals that enjoy putting on live theatre. We boast a current membership of over 80 people from all walks of life.
Each year we endeavour to perform three productions, performing both theatre and musicals. This is firstly to meet the needs of our society members who enjoy performing the different genres of theatre, but also it provides, for our community, a range of different live theatre opportunities for them to attend. As a group we do endeavour to perform New Zealand stories. "A Trick of the Light” written by Ken Duncum was an example of this, but we also enjoy the humour of Roger Hall.
Over the years we have performed numerous musicals including many of the great West End Stage shows. Highlights for the theatre have been: "Evita”, "Jesus Christ Super Star”, "Fiddler on the Roof” and Les Miserables. These musicals have had up to 90 people involved and reached a good few thousand people from all along the Kapiti Coast.
We are a fun group that takes pride in our on stage achievements and enjoy the social aspect of belonging to a theatre society.

                     

Civic Theatre History

The Otaki Players Society Theatre, as we see it today, was built in 1938 after the original theatre, known as Brights, was burnt down in a mysterious fire in 1935. Fredrick and Arthur Bright built the theatre in 1913 for the princely sum of £3000 and was of a building of large dimension being one the largest theatres between Palmerston North and Wellington. It was the venue for many events from skating to flower shows, concerts and balls while still serving as the community’s picture theatre.
The early films were silent. However the first talking film was released in 1929 which drew such a crowd that people had to be turned away.

Tragedy struck on Christmas Eve 1935 when fire completely destroyed the theatre. Three years later in 1938 the Borough Council rebuilt a new one on the Main Street site, as it is today. The theatre ran mainly as a picture theatre, but over the years it also hosted a range of other events including patriotic concerts during the war years including concerts by the world famous opera singer Inia Te Wiata who was raised in Otaki.

                   

The theatre was leased to a range of groups to show films; Kerridge Odeon Ltd (1940’s – 1960’s), D M Eteveneaux (1970’s) and Frank Williamson (1980’s). The last film "Parenthood” was shown at the Civic theatre in March 1990 and after being used by a fraternity of local churches for a year was then taken over by the Otaki Players Society, in 1991, who had been looking for a permanent place to perform and store their equipment for many years.
From then, the interior of the theatre has taken on many shapes with over 50 productions taking place. Otaki Players has attracted over 20 000 people to their performances over this time, showing that " The Cosy", "The Lyric", "Brights" and "The civic Theatre" still has the ability to draw the crowds and intends to do so for a long time to come.

Otaki Players History

Otaki Players started on Wednesday the 7th May 1947 at 8:00 pm. A meeting was called at the Jubilee Hotel by Miss Katherine Keddell, who was a teacher at the local Otaki State School, to discuss the formation of a Play Reading and Dramatic Club in Otaki. Because of this meeting the Otaki Players were born.
The main activity of the Club was fortnightly play readings held in members’ homes. Minutes of the meetings state that were very well attended. Mrs. Irene Cross, who was on the committee at the time, kept a log book showing those people who had been allotted reading parts so that fairness among the members could be demonstrated and everyone got a fair turn. In October 1947 three one act plays were performed at the Anglican Hall and later taken to the Otaki Sanatorium, the proceeds being donated to the Otaki War Memorial Hall fund.

The first public readings or produced readings began in 1948 and were held alternately in the local Druids Hall and the Anglican Hall. Subscriptions to the Otaki Players, at that time, were initially set at 10/- per year and were raised after several years to £1/1/- with 1/- per reading for the cost of the hall and 3d for supper.
From this point regular theatre productions took place in and around Otaki, depending on where there was a space available. Plays were performed anywhere there was a space. The Wesley Hall, the Mayfair Ballroom, the Rifle Range Hall were all used for rehearsals, but it was the former Presbyterian Sunday School Hall (now Harvey’s Funeral Home) that served the society well for 3 years as "The Playroom" and allowed them to put on a range of quality performances. The major productions were performed in the local memorial hall.

In 1991 The Otaki Players had the chance to return to the "Civic Theatre", 40 years after the first performance there. The Council of the time and the Otaki Players agreed to a lease and finally they had a permanent home for their large amount of props, costumes, and equipment.
From this point they have not looked back producing a range of quality performances for the Otaki Public.