11 July 2014
Rotorua’s iconic Civic Theatre is at the centre of talks around a new venue to replace two of the city’s ageing performing arts venues.
Like many other community buildings, the Rotorua Musical Theatre’ Casablanca venue and the Rotorua Little Theatre’s Shambles Theatre are facing expensive refits to meet new earthquake standards.
The Mud understands discussions involving both theatre groups have been underway for two years, with more concentrated talks for the past eight months.
Casablanca is located in the industrial centre, at Riri Street, and Shambles Theatre is made up of five buildings behind Pak n Save in the central city.
The plan being put forward is for the two groups to combine in a single building to be built on land next to RAVE, the Rotorua District Council-operated arts centre.
However, the Council’s views have become focused on the future of the Rotorua Civic Theatre. Mayor Steve Chadwick is apparently keen to house all performing arts in the Civic but those involved have pointed out the drawbacks – not least the building’s Historic Place designation, making it difficult to refurbish to suit the needs of different groups.
Grahame Hall, chair of key funder Rotorua Trust, told The Mud the two performing arts groups were important for Rotorua.
“We can do better in Rotorua than having them working out of really old buildings.”
A study carried out by Wellington-based architects Shand Shelton had confirmed it was possible to build a venue capable of satisfying each group’s requirements.
He recognised the talks were ongoing but even given the costings and different requirements “I genuinely think we can afford it and we can do it.”
Little Theatre’s Paul van Miert said members held widely differing views on what direction they should take for the future. He was opposed to a single venue, because the plans he had seen so far could not cater for the demand for theatre space required to replace both Shambles and Casablanca.
“Both the societies have sell-out shows running, so we are both very successful individually.”
However, he said Little Theatre members as a whole had decided not to reject the plans out of hand.
The Historic Places Trust listing for the Rotorua Civic Theatre:
Historic Place Category 1
List Number 7206
Date Entered 23rd February 1994