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Map showing The Playhouse

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The Playhouse in its first incarnation opened in 1979 and was the home of the Hunter Valley Theatre Company (HVTC) Australia’s first regionally based full time professional theatre company dedicated to new and original work. Designed by local architect Brian Suters and built following a community fundraising drive, the Playhouse gave rise to a number of landmark Australian productions.

While shows are ephemeral this history created lasting community memories and it was considered a set back to the region’s performing arts and cultural development when the HVTC folded in 1996 and then the Playhouse closed in 1998. Many in the community did not accept that a fundamentally well designed performing arts space was allowed to close down, albeit with significant safety and access problems compounded by other issues including deteriorating technical equipment and below standard cast and audience facilities.

Following a community based campaign that sought an affordable, well equipped and comfortable performing arts space for local practitioners, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Ministry for the Arts committed a combined $1.5 million to refurbish Newcastle’s moth-balled Playhouse Theatre. Refurbishments included a new auditorium-seating plan, a lift to provide access to the first floor foyer and second floor auditorium entrance, a comprehensive technical fit-out, new rehearsal and dressing rooms, a foyer bar and a box office. Well thought-out architecture and design, a public art commission, a restored mural, historic poster wall and memorabilia are all part of the comprehensive upgrade to the interior. In short, the Playhouse is a new home for the performing arts in Newcastle. Above all the Playhouse is about providing local practitioners and their audience access to a venue, with operating costs kept as low as possible, that is located in the heart of Newcastle’s Civic and Cultural Precinct.

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