One thing that’s true about theatre is it’s definitely a visual art form with the objective of engaging you, the viewer, in its world.
So, when thinking about the role of community theatre, what makes a community gather in a supportive and innovative environment to not only create this art form, but also endure the test of time?
Act 1 Theatre Inc (Act 1) welcomes and celebrates 2024 with a 60-year-long history of dedication to the art of theatre-making after having its humble beginnings in 1964 at the Methodist Hall on Robinson Road, Aspley.
Here, the company began producing plays, and in 1984, was presented with the opportunity to move to Strathpine where it’s been at home in the heritage-listed Pine Shire Hall for some 40 years. It was also here that theatre restaurant performances were introduced.
“Yes, we’ve been around for a long time,” Terry Frawley, Act 1’s current president, says. “And it’s taken much time and effort and teamwork. We are grateful to those who initiated it all, way back when. These people included Flo Clarke, Joy Beatty, and Mollie Leggat, to name a few.”
Terry knows all too well what’s involved in running a theatre company. He’s held many positions as members often do. Terry is noted for being Act 1’s longest-running member.
“I arrived in 2000 and began acting, then directing, especially the theatre restaurant, for 17 of those years,” Terry says. “I’ve been privileged to have worked with so many great talents.”
Coming in second-longest to Terry is Andrew Munslow, currently in the position of Light and Sound and Marketing, who has been with Act 1 for over 12 years.
“We’re also very grateful to our committee and actors who have helped build such a successful community group,” Andrew says.
Special thanks must also go to Trisha Bromley, vice president, Ramesh Maheswaren, treasurer (acting), Samantha Sutherland, secretary (acting), Deb Hossack, stage manager and marketing.
From its inception, Act 1 has always put on all kinds of theatre, whether it be one-act plays, full productions of varying genres and musicals, theatre restaurant entertainment, and their very own theatre festival called Act 1 TheatreFest (TheatreFest).
“TheatreFest allows for a lot of original concepts to be presented,” Andrew says. “Our next TheatreFest dates have not been set yet. We will probably do a couple of one-act play weekends mid-year. These are not judged, but they are an excellent chance for new directors to get their feet wet.”
There truly is something special about being the first in line to see an original production, and even though COVID saw many events postponed, with all the downtime everyone had, theatre-makers got stuck right into doing what they do best — creating new theatre.
Andrew is a playwright/composer with an insightful understanding of storytelling who finds value in small segments of this, that or the other and somehow uses music to weave them together to tell a whole new story.
In May 2023, Andrew premiered his first musical The Pirates, a Musical. Here, he explored the adventures of Pirates of Penzance characters while incorporating new cultures and genres like steampunk, the 80s and a bit of “Alice” (in Wonderland).
Andrew’s second musical is Panic in Pipton — A War of the Worlds Story.
Andrew says it’s third in the 2024 line-up and is like War of the Worlds (HG Wells) meets Walter Mitty (James Thurber).
“Pipton isn’t so much a story, rather, a microcosm of what happens in one community and how people believe what’s going on or not,” Andrew says. “A love of the War of the Worlds story, a mixed disbelief and amazement that people back in the day actually believed the radio play was a real invasion. And I’m crazy about putting on musicals.”
When asked what makes his original productions stand out, Andrew says: “I think I always thought that the ideas I had would only ever live in my head. To have them come to life and to have others so eager to be a part of something that was born of thought alone. It’s the next best thing to looking into the eyes of your newborn baby. It’s creation. It is surreal.”
So what’s coming up in 2024?
First up, opening on Friday, 23 February is Tiptoe Through the Tombstones by Norman Robbins, directed by Terry Frawley. Next is the Theatre Restaurant, A True Blue Aussie Review, Christmas in July Theme, also directed by Terry Frawley.
Andrew’s back with his Panic in Pipton — A War of the World Story, directed by Debbie Hossack.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget, Mother and Son by Jeffrey Atherton which will be directed by Michelle Whitmore, assisted by Debbie Hossack. This is Michelle’s debut as director.
Now that things are back to normal, let’s say, audiences are flocking to see Act 1’s shows, offering great feedback.
“I love hearing patrons talking after the show or reading their comments in the visitor’s book,” Andrew says. “I’m grateful for the amazing people I meet, on the writing and performing side.”
So what’s next for Act 1 Theatre?
“I think we are already firmly set on a course to do more musicals and more original scripts and there is a strong wind blowing in our sails,” Andrew says. “We’ll continue with theatre restaurant performances too. These are such fun entertainment for our audiences. It’s a really good way to fire people up.”
“We do what we do and sometimes in difficult times because we love what we do,” Terry says. “It’s all about bringing laughs, deep emotions and entertainment to our patrons.”
“Yes, we’ve had our ups and downs, like any organisation. But we’ve always been able to push through.”
With last year’s success, the company was able to upgrade by installing LED signage, lighting and sound equipment and more.
Tiptoe Through the Tombstones runs from 23 February to 9 March. To book tickets to this show and future productions, or to get involved, visit Act 1’s website www.act1theatre.com.au