A couple of months back I was looking at venues in Tauranga.
Of course I was complaining. Or at least pointing out that there possibly aren't as many options as a city this size with an ever-increasing population needs.
That's not to say there aren't good venues. Totara Street is really beginning to attract a broad range of rock and other bands to Tauranga. One good rock venue might not be enough but at least there's one.
But I talked to promoter Colin Lunt who, like me, is often approached by smaller bands wanting to play in Tauranga, looking for the right venue. It's a bit tricky. We both like the X-Space at Baycourt, but it is both a little expensive and often unavailable, even if it is technically available, since even a booking in the main theatre can put the X-Space out of action. Most interesting will be the new options at The Historic Village which I'll look at further as they develop.
It turns out I had missed one obvious venue, mainly because I'm a bit behind the times. The 16 Ave Theatre puts on four shows a year and a youth production in January. That once used to mean that what with lead-in rehearsal time for the shows it was basically busy all year and if you wanted to hire it you'd be lucky to find a free date.
Things have changed
But, like I said, I'm a bit behind the times and they've tightened things up considerably.
These days plays have a shorter time to rehearse on stage so there are a good four or five months free each year when the theatre can be booked and used for concerts (or anything else).
And I reckon it is a terrific concert venue: not too expensive, with a full bar in a separate area and a green room and lighting and dressing rooms and really everything you could want.
It seats around 150. I had a chat with Sarah Oemcke, the president, who has been a part of 16 Ave Theatre for just over four years. In that time she's been on-stage, back-stage, in the tech box, on committee and directed shows, before becoming president last year. Prior to that she was in the UK, similarly involved for five years at The Playhouse Theatre in Cheltenham.
Sarah says her love of acting and theatre started with her grandmother and grandfather who were both performers: “They actually met on stage,” she says, “when my grandmother was an actress and my grandfather the intermission magician.”
Now she's proud to say that after 80 years the theatre is the longest continually-running in New Zealand, having never taken a break for war or other inconveniences. It is entirely run by volunteers from the roughly 200 current members who between them do everything a thriving theatre requires.
Actually, it was a great time to check out the theatre as they're just about to start their production of ‘The Ladykillers', an adaptation of one of my all-time favourite films (at least in its original form).
This stage version comes from the creators of the ‘IT Crowd' and ‘Father Ted'. Sarah reckons it is extremely well-written and outrageously funny. The story, for those not familiar, is of a sweet little old lady who rents a room to a gang of bank robbers passing themselves off as musicians. Disasters and deaths hilariously ensue.
The original featured a wonderful central turn from Alec Guinness as the leader of the gang and included a very early outing from Peter Sellers. What's interesting is how much the Guinness role looks like a model for many of Sellers' later creations. You can almost see the young man watching and learning and absorbing everything he could from the masterful Guinness.
The show kicks off on August 30, runs for just over two weeks, and looks like it'll be a blast. And in the future, as bands discover it, I expect that along with plays there'll be a lot more music at the theatre. It really is as good a venue as I've come across in Tauranga.