Stage Lights – a request…

Wagga has a long tradition of community theatre, providing drama, comedy and music to local audiences.

For many years, the city’s various theatre groups performed in church halls, school auditoriums and shared times and space with dances and movies in other local halls. So the arrival of the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre in 1963 was a red-letter day for theatre groups and their audiences.

As a newspaper report of the time noted, the theatre opening was the fulfilment of a fourteen year dream. Years of discussions and debate over the type of hall and the facilities needed faded away in the excitement and glamour of the opening night on 29 June 1963.

Teahouse of the August Moon, played by the School of Arts.
Teahouse of the August Moon was performed by the School of Arts on opening night of the Wagga Civic Theatre [from the Tom Lennon Collection RW1574/443].
The Civic Theatre – its planning, construction, opening and usage – will be one of the features of a new joint exhibition by the Museum of the Riverina and the Charles Sturt University Regional Archives (and curated by Dr Nancy Blacklow), to be staged later this year. The exhibition will highlight the activities of various theatrical groups which have entertained Wagga audiences from the late 1800s.

To aid the display, a number of films made of some early shows will be included. But while there are many photographs of the opening of the Civic Theatre, no video of the spectacular event has been found at this time.

Perhaps an amateur photographic enthusiast filmed the occasion? And perhaps they may be prepared to lend the film to be converted to a modern format? If so, please get in contact with us or the Museum of the Riverina.

The exterior of the Wagga Civic Theatre, circa 1960s.
The Wagga Civic Theatre, 1960s [from the Gerahty Collection, RW2998].
The opening of the Civic Theatre was described as “a milestone in the history of our city”, attended by 500 guests. Today, it is a focal point of visiting performances and large-scale local productions and ceremonies. Recording its history through the forthcoming exhibition would be greatly enhanced by a film of the opening, so please spread the word!

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