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How it all began continued

In 1988 admission prices were increased to $6.50.  On the 6th of August Channel 2 used the theatre’s auditorium to film a scene for the ABC/BBC television film Darling Of The Gods and in September we staged the Victorian Amateur Premiere of Brighton Beach Memoirs over a four-week period.  Ron Ward became the new Treasurer.  The Hartwell Players celebrated their 50th Anniversary in September.  A free Lighting Course of six sessions through September and October was conducted by Laurie Gellon.  The year finished with a Christmas get-together for all members on the 11th of December and the Malvern Theatre Workshop Group’s four performances of Separate Tables, directed by Helen Lipp, from 15th to 17th.

The Australian Amateur Premiere of Why Me? was the first production of 1989.  After 25 years of dedicated involvement at all levels, Carolyn and John Gunn retired from their positions on the Board.  Don Hammond who was presented the Colin Cave Memorial Award for 1988 became President.  Malvern’s first entrant in the Waverley Festival was the year’s fifth production, Crimes Of The Heart.

In 1990 the Saturday 5:00 pm intermediate session was changed to a matinee starting at 2:30 pm and ticket prices were increased to $7.00.  Later, in August, a further increase took the price to $8.00.  Jody Chave took over the position of Treasurer.  A new second-hand printing machine was purchased for $3,000.00 to enable the continuation of the in-house printing requirements.  The Dresser was awarded Best Production in the 11th Waverley Festival of Theatre. Malvern began their own Annual Awards which were presented for the first time on the 16th of December with Beverley Dunn as the presenter and adjudicator.

In 1991 admission prices were increased again to $9.00.  A meeting with the Council was held on the 26th of August at which an assurance of a satisfactory future, lease-wise, to enable a substantial investment by the theatre in building renovations was agreed in principle by the Council.  Our adjudicator for 1991 was Terry McDermott who presented the various awards at the Annual Awards Day and Christmas Social on the 15th of December.

In 1992, our thirty-fifth year, the production runs were lengthened to 14 performances by the addition of a Monday performance in the third week.  This year also marked the 60th year of the Geelong Repertory Theatre Company as well as the 40th anniversaries of both the Victorian Drama League and Heidelberg Theatre Company. In August ticket prices hit double figures at $10.00.  With a new ten-year lease, Council approval of the plans, eighteen months of trauma to get the permits and a $15,000.00 grant from the Ministry for the Arts, our long-time dream of a new two-storey brick building at the rear of the theatre (the intended Colorbond steel and timber version was objected to by a number of Douglas Street residents) became reality with the demolition and clearance of the old structure.  The Board introduced a new policy which placed a ban on smoking in the foyer. Spare Me Bloomin’ Days was awarded Best Production at the Waverley Festival, while sadly, Pumpkin Theatre closed after being evicted from their premises.

In 1993 production runs were reduced to 13 performances by deleting the Monday performances as a result of poor bookings throughout the previous year.  By April, a concrete slab had already been poured, bricks delivered, concrete lintels and steel floor beams craned into place, and the eastern wall of our new building had been completed.  Trak Players celebrated their 30th Anniversary.  Roxanne Inglis-Lowes received the Colin Cave Memorial Award for 1992 at the 12th AGM, 23rd May.  Our Public Relations Director Rod McGregor, became the new editor of Madragro in September.  The Malvern Annual Awards Day was held on the 5th of December followed by the official opening of the new backstage building by Councillor Bert Healy who was instrumental in securing the Burke Road premises for us in 1970 and who had consistently supported the company.  The planning and construction of the new building was the culmination of about 2,000 hours devoted to the project by our Building and Technical Supervisor Max Mander.

John Avery became the new President at the 13th AGM, 22nd May, 1994 and Michael Strahan took over as Treasurer.  Life Memberships were given to Hilda Ortland and Don Hammond while the Colin Cave Award was presented to Manuel Proeger.  With the addition of an extra fire extinguisher, we passed the final building inspection of the new premises at the rear.  A 20% increase saw admission prices rise to $12.00.  The Malvern Annual Awards were presented on the 11th of December by our adjudicator Dina Mann.

Early 1995, in an effort to make the theatre more comfortable in the hotter months, overhead fans were installed in the auditorium and wall fans in the dressing rooms.  Programme sales decreased (was it because that less were needed to double as fans?) so it was decided to lower the price.  At the 14th Annual General Meeting on the 21st of May, the Colin Cave Memorial Award was presented to Graeme Moore.

In 1996, at the 15th AGM on 26th of May, David Corben became Treasurer, Bert Healy was awarded Honourary Life Membership and the Colin Cave Award was presented to Gwen Hart.  Our applications for building a new control booth/bio-box at the back of the auditorium were finally approved and work began immediately.  The cost of this project was assisted by a generous donation from the final winding up of the Clayton Theatre Company. Elsewhere, Williamstown Little Theatre celebrated their 50th year.  Graeme Moore became the new editor of Madragro and the June issue took on a new single-colour format in a more up-to-date metric A5 size.  The new Control Booth was completed, thanks to Max Mander, and in operation for Time And The Conways in August. Echoes won Best Production plus three other awards at the final Waverley Festival of Theatre in October.  This brought Malvern’s tally of Best Production Awards to three – the most received by any theatrical group.  Champagne flutes, bearing the Festival’s logo and the dates 1979–1996 in gold, were presented to everyone present on its final Gala Night.  The Malvern Annual Awards were presented by adjudicator Denzil Howson on the 8th of December and included the official opening of the new Control Booth by Councillor Bert Healy.

1997 was Malvern Theatre’s 40th year.  The number of productions was reduced to five per year which made way for longer rehearsal periods.  Ticket prices were raised to $13.00.  An additional row of seats was added at the rear of the auditorium increasing our seating capacity to 142.  The proscenium was given a face-lift and new stage curtains were installed while the outside of the Malvern Community Arts Centre was painted in heritage colours.  Don Hammond received the Colin Cave Memorial Award at the 16th AGM in May.  During Romantic Comedy, Optus Television filmed part of the play and interviewed some of the audience members in the foyer for their Monday television programme.  The 40th Birthday Party was held on the 3rd of August and began at 4:00 pm with a special performance of The Actor’s Nightmare, directed by David Corben and Liz Lipski, in the theatre, and guests were then transferred to the adjoining hall for the festivities.  The Australian Premiere of The Family Dance was staged later that month.  The author, Felicity Browne, while visiting Melbourne in May, managed through the VDL, to track down and meet with Graeme Moore, the director of our production. During rehearsals, an actor who was replaced, filed a lawsuit against the theatre which ended up in the Supreme Court.  Even though justice and common sense prevailed in favour of the theatre, the enormous expense was an unwarranted financial burden. Legal advice persuaded the introduction of an ‘Engagement Form’ to be signed by each cast member at the beginning of rehearsals.

In January 1998 a new illuminated sign was fitted to the front of the theatre.  Other improvements included a new lighting dimmer rack, a smoke machine, new flats, a laptop computer for accounting purposes and a new vacuum cleaner.  Fridge magnets were produced and issued gratis to audience members.  At the AGM in May, Margaret Baxter became Secretary and Membership Director.  Sixteen days after the final performance of Dial ‘M’ For Murder, our Front of House Manager Michael Maude, who played the part of Inspector Hubbard, died of cancer on the 3rd of August.  A memorial award in his honour was created in 2000.  Malvern Theatre started its first internet web page and A Month Of Sundays received three VDL Silver Awards – Best Production, Best Director and Best Sound.  Our own Annual Awards Day was held on the 12th of December with adjudicator Peter Stephenson Jones.

1999 started with new plastic sphere lighting being installed in the foyer.  In February a new Axiom 48 lighting desk was purchased and installed in time for the first show of the year as was a remote-controlled curtain motor for the stage.  At the 18th AGM in May, Rod McGregor became President, John Avery (former President) was made a Life Member and the Colin Cave Memorial Award was awarded posthumously to Michael Maude.  A dishwasher was installed in the Foyer shortly followed by a telephone answering machine backstage.  Pizza Man, which was staged in December 1998, won First Prize for Best Production at both the Mordialloc Eisteddford in June and the Anglesea One-Act Play Festival in August.  The play was entered under the director’s company, Chloe Productions, and was partly financed by Malvern Theatre.

The year 2000 began with the installation of an Evaporative Cooling System in the auditorium the week before the opening of the first production Life Goes On.  At the 19th AGM on the 26th of March, Joan Miller was presented with the Colin Cave Memorial Award for 1999.  Malvern Theatre’s own independent web-site was registered in October and was up and running shortly after.  Although admission prices were increased to $14.00, the attendances for the five productions of this year averaged 94% capacity.  Michael Maude’s sister Sheila Crighton, sent the theatre a sum of money from England to set up a memorial award in his name (see 1998).  The Board decided it should take the form of a perpetual trophy for the Best Set of each year.  The Malvern Theatre Awards were presented on the 17th of December by our adjudicator Les Cartwright and the first Michael Maude Memorial Award was awarded to Chris Baldock, Jill Clague and Graeme Moore for the set concept for The Philadelphia Story.

On the 6th of April 2001, Malvern Theatre paid tribute to their immediate former President, John Avery who sadly passed away on the 27th of February.  On the first day of April at the 20th AGM, Dina Mac Namara was presented with the Colin Cave Memorial Award and Patrick Sheridan was appointed Treasurer.  Tragically, Patrick died from a heart attack in July while preparing to go on stage in Kelly with Nuworks at Wesley College.  Ken Read was then co-opted to the position of Treasurer.  Ticket prices were increased to $15.00.  At our Annual Awards Day in December, State Government Certificates for the International Year of Volunteers were presented to Rod McGregor, Margaret Baxter, Ken Read, Ray Russell, Graeme Moore, Shirley Fitch, Mike Grant, Liz Lipski, Joan Miller, Judy Clues, Tracey Wheeler, Dina Mac Namara, Don Hammond, John Konewka and Angelo Gianchino.

In 2002 production runs were lengthened to fourteen performances by adding a Thursday night to the first week.  Charity nights were then moved back to the Wednesday before opening night.  Ticket prices were increased to $16.00 and Membership fees were increased for the first time since 1987 to $15.00.  Shirley Fitch became President at the 21st AGM, John Konewka received the Colin Cave Memorial Award and Joan Miller was granted Life Membership on the 28th of April.  Malvern’s adjudicator for this and the following two years was Joan Chapman.

Ray Russell became Malvern Theatre’s new President in 2003.  The Colin Cave Memorial Award was presented to Angelo Gianchino at the 22nd AGM on the 27th of April.  Beaumaris Theatre celebrated their 50th Anniversary in April.  Stonnington Council was only prepared to offer Malvern Theatre a lease renewal of one-year plus a one-year option.  After several meetings with the Council over a period of eleven months, a petition of over 1600 signatures collected by Max Mander who spoke to the audiences before each performance of Gaslight during September and Press exposure, the terms were increased to three years plus two three-year options and it was finally signed just before Christmas.

In 2004, the production runs were adjusted again by deleting the first Thursday night performance and adding a second Matinee on the Sunday of the second week at 3:00 pm.  To combat the daylight of now two matinees, blackout shutters were fitted over the north-wall windows of the stage and auditorium, worklights were dual-switched and the backstage areas were fitted with light-proof curtains.  Roger Ustick took over the position of Treasurer.  A video projector was purchased and installed in April for Beyond Reasonable Doubt.  At the 23rd Annual General Meeting on the 25th of April, Alistair Johnstone was presented with the Colin Cave Memorial Award. 

From the beginning of 2005 the Saturday Matinees started 30 minutes earlier at 2:00 pm.  Don Hammond returned as President and Deborah Fabbro was our adjudicator for this and the following year.  At the 24th AGM on the 24th of April, the Colin Cave Memorial Award was presented to Shirley Hislop and Rod McGregor received Life Membership.  Additional atmospheric lighting was added to the auditorium, fluorescent lights to the wardrobe department and at long last the fourth and final lighting bar was installed over the stage.  Four-times Mayor of the City of Malvern and Malvern Theatre’s greatest supporter for more than 30 years, Bert Healy, passed away on the 22nd of June. Peridot Theatre celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

In 2006, after the success of the earlier starting time of the Saturday Matinees in the previous year, Sunday performances began an hour earlier at 2:00 pm also.  The theatre’s web site was revamped in January.  Ticket prices were increased to $18.00 while $20.00 was charged as a one-off for the November production of the musical Something’s Afoot.  At the 25th AGM on the 9th of April, Judy Clues and Ray Russell were presented with the Colin Cave Award and Life Membership, respectively.  In June, Athan Agriopoulos became the new editor of Madragro and new atmospheric ceiling lighting was installed in the foyer.  Malvern Theatre Company Ltd was converted from that of a public company limited by guarantee to an incorporated association, Malvern Theatre Company Incorporated.  Bruce Parr took over the editorship of Madragro in October and Cynthia Paciocco joined the committee as Treasurer.

2007 was the year of Malvern Theatre’s 50th Anniversary.  All the programmes throughout the year featured special gold covers and historical displays were set up in the foyer.  Malvern Theatre began sponsoring a 5-year-old child living in Tanzania, through the World Vision organization.  Reverse cycle air conditioning was installed in the auditorium and above the stage in February, while in May a new digital photocopier, with duplex and collating facilities, was purchased, making in-house production of Madragro and production programmes once again possible.  At the 26th Annual General Meeting on the 3rd of June, Barbara Dwyer was elected President, Pat McDonald was presented with the Colin Cave Award and Margaret Baxter was presented with Life Membership.  Later that month a new Malvern Community Arts Centre sign was added to the front of the building.  The backstage passageways were carpeted and 'another' new dish washer was installed in the foyer in August.  As part of the 50th-year celebrations, guests were invited to a special preview of The Rose Tattoo on the 26th of August and a birthday celebration on the 30th of September.  Ed Bailey was Malvern’s Annual Awards adjudicator.  The lease on our scenery store at Dandenong Road, Malvern, was terminated on the 31st of December.  Its contents were culled and relocated at Wilson Self Storage in Malvern.

In mid-January 2008, the stage lights were taken down, cleaned and according to the new Occupational Health and Safety regulations were tested and tagged, as was all other electrical items in the theatre.  Former Madragro Editor, Secretary and Life Member, Hilda Ortland (nee Orton) died on Monday 25th February.  On Thursday 24th of April, the Stonnington Council replaced the old 1984 carpet in the foyer just in time for the evening's charity performance of Rapture.  At the 27th Annual General Meeting on 27th of April, former Madragro Editor, Graeme Moore was presented with Life Membership.  One of the cast members of our very first show in 1958 A Lady Mislaid, Dorothy Heulin died in England on 18th June.  A new permanent '1300' telephone booking number was established which solved the problem of having a different number everytime we changed ticket secretaries.  In October the backstage talkback system and sound monitoring equipment was overhauled and the video monitoring system was upgraded and extended into the foyer with an HD video monitor.

We began 2009 with Scotland Road and during the performance of the 7th of March an earth tremor measuring 4.7 on the Richter Scale struck. 

To be continued ...