In 1954, a group of five play-reading enthusiasts decided to form a drama group. This later developed into the Papakura Drama Club with the object of staging "straight" plays. Foundation members included Madge and Alan Ruthe (producer) the late Kay Mackay (president), Rex Shearer, Helen Denton and the late Les Whitlock.  

Productions, mostly of one act plays, were staged in the old Methodist (now Crossroads) church hall Papakura. Later the Club moved to Papakura High School and became one of the first night classes. 

Presidents in this era included Lola Shearer Laurie Cornwall and Richard Bryham. 

The advent of television diminished the size of audiences drastically for some years. After a difficult period it was decided to try a musical, produced by Ray Dormer who was a stalwart and guiding hand throughout a lot of the Club's history. Salad Days was a great success. 

In 1969 the Club's name was changed to Papakura Theatre Club so that all forms of theatre could be presented and from that time the Club aimed at one or two major musicals each year with the occasional straight play, such as Gigi, pantomimes and revues. 

When Ray Dormer left for Australia in 1978 he left a big gap in the production team, but in true theatre fashion local directors stepped into the breach, some having trained briefly under Ray. 

One of these was Terri de'Ath, a member of both Pukekohe and Papakura clubs. For some years Terri was our resident director and directed many productions for the Club including two new musicals by Auckland musician Derrick Bailey. Derrick took the story of She Stoops To Conquer and set it to music; the lyrics were by Doug Johnson and this excellent combination produced Lovers' Inn Trouble. 

Derrick's second musical was the story of Maui, lyrics by Guy Phillips, made into a first class rock opera. 

These locally written shows deserve better recognition by theatre and operatic clubs; Papakura Theatre Club was proud to have been offered the first opportunity to produce them. 

From 1973 the Musical Director for most of the major shows was Lorna Clauson who first joined the Club in 1969 as Lady Reyburn in Salad Days and progressed almost immediately into Chorus Director working under Nellie Martin as Musical Director. Upon Nellie's departure for the Bay of Islands Lorna took over the baton - or, as she prefers, her No.6 knitting needle made of plastic "because it doesn't break as easily as a silly wooden wand!" Somehow the conductor's stand always got in the way! 

At first the Club had only one piano to accompany the shows but this increased to two pianos (one borrowed) and by 1975 a small ensemble had been formed to accompany The Sound Of Music undoubtedly one of the best shows produced by the Club up until then. 

With the formation of the Papakura Civic Orchestra a first class group became available for backing most of the major shows. Audiences and Directors have always commented on the restrained, sympathetic accompaniment by the players who provided excellent backing for the singers, never being too prominent or overbearing - a fault often found with the larger and sometimes more aggressive orchestras. Resident pianist Barbara Phare had been with the Club for many years and contributed much to the musical cohesion so necessary between conductor and players. 

For twenty five years the Club was without a permanent home - props and wardrobe, scenery and flats wren stored in garages, basements or anywhere space could be found. 

The Papakura Borough Council finally came to light with an old building on the outskirts of the town and all properties were crammed into this but vandals soon discovered them and much damage was suffered. Irreplaceable costumes had paint poured over them, lights were smashed, fittings damaged beyond repair and in the final raid much of the wardrobe was strewn around, trampled on and littered with broken glass. 

It was a heartbreaking sight for the committee to sort out. 

For rehearsals, a classroom in the old Papakura Central School was made available by the Council but this also had to be used for constructing and painting scenery. Often the cast had to relearn steps and routines when transferring to the High School stage for the final rehearsals because of the cramped conditions under which they had to work. 

It was a credit to the producer and cast that such high standards of performance were maintained under difficult and often depressing odds. The chorus would rehearse in the room while the dancers practised in the corridor and the principals rehearsed outside under the trees - if it was fine! 

With the karate and judo classes in an adjacent room, the boaties in another and the dog handling classes in the playground, all practising at the same time, passers-by could be forgiven if they thought the occupants had gone bananas! 

However, salvation was at hand... 

In 1980 the Ministry Of Transport took over the old Ardmore Teachers' College area (including the hall) after eight years of indecision by the government. A chance phone call by Shirley Evans (who's husband Rob was the principal of Ardmore Teachers' College) to Lorna Clauson led to the almost immediate occupancy by the Club. This gave us access to the stage and lecture/music room, adjoining dressing rooms with toilets, extensive side rooms for storing wardrobe and a huge basement for all the flats and scenery. 

Although the building was in poor repair after years of neglect and the prospects of maintenance were almost nil, the Club were elated at finally being able to rehearse on a full sized stage with ample room for piano and orchestra. Because of the condition of the building it was not available for public performances but the advantages of being able to make, erect and use the entire scenery for all rehearsals meant that just a few hours work transported the whole show on to the High School stage ready for the final dress rehearsals. 

It was just the fillip the Club needed. 

Our Ardmore clubrooms eventually got beyond repair and we had to look around Papakura for another site and, thanks to a lot of hard work by the then President Patty Reid, in 1994 we bought part of the old Choice Market building in Elliott Street which we have called Off Broadway (also named by Patty). We have renovated this building until it is now a very nice, intimate theatre. Still plenty more work to be done yet though! 

We produce most of our shows here with the exception of some bigger musicals which are produced at the Hawkins Centre across the road in Ray Small Drive. We hope to produce many more plays and musicals in the smaller and more intimate Off Broadway Theatre. 

In January 2003 the Papakura Theatre Club became Papakura Theatre Company. 

So, fifty years after a handful of drama enthusiasts decided to stage Fumed Oak and The Man In The Bowler Hat for a small audience, Papakura Theatre Company can proudly point to a string of successes having played to many thousands of people. 

Much is due to the dedication of those early 'pioneers' some of whom have passed on. Much is due also to the talent and hard work of Ray Dormer who now has a service trophy given each year in his honour to a deserving and hard-working club member. 

We now have our own theatre complex called Off Broadway situated at 41 Elliot Street Papakura (opp. RSA). 

A number of well known theatre folk have contributed to many of our shows; in 1970 Robert Young (now with the Brisbane Theatre and previously with Hamilton Founders Theatre) did our choreography; Peter Meikle directed The Pajama Game in 1973 - a highly original diversion. It was fitting that 1980 should see the Club's first Gilbert & Sullivan production The Pirates Of Penzance directed by Bill O'Meara of the North Shore Operatic Society. 

The well known director/choreographer Robert Alderton directed the very successful production of Chicago in 1991 and our current Zone Representative John Antony directed our productions of Music Man in 1993 and Big River in 1994. 

We have PTC members all over the world including Carolanne Wright (Cats etc., etc.) in Hamburg. Carolanne is at present on an international tour as Donna, the lead in Mamma Mia; Meredith Braun (Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera, Sunset Boulevard etc., etc.) in London; Georgia Duder (Les Miserables, Pirates, Mikado, etc., etc.) in Sydney; Jim Price (Les Miserables, Chess etc) in Brisbane; Merryn Totty (Les Miserables, Mack & Mabel, West Side Story) in Sydney and of course our lighting man, Gary Hieatt who spent nine years in London working for The Really Useful Company looking after the maintenance of their three theatres: The Palace (Les Miserables), The Adelphi (Sunset Boulevard) and The New London (Cats). Gary has even been directed by Lord Lloyd Webber. He was directed to hang a painting in Sir Andrew's office!!! 

One of our Life Members, Lorna Clauson, has compiled a 250 page book filled with photos, programmes and a very readable history of our club since 1954. This is now available at a cost of $25 from Committee or John Walker Music in Selwyn Centre, Papakura - Telephone (09) 299-8827.

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