Ross Cottle and Carol Buck. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Two of Masterton’s oldest theatre groups have announced plans to merge with their new name to be announced later this year.

Members from the Harlequin Theatre and Masterton Amateur Theatrical Society voted to merge at separate meetings held early last week.

MATS president Ross Cottle said the move had been in the works for several months as both clubs had noticed a decline in memberships.

“There seems to be less people doing the work,” he said. “We don’t believe that either society can survive on their own.”

He said MATS had a membership of about 100 people, compared with Harlequin Theatre’s 80 or so members.

Merging would help reduce administrative costs such as rates, maintenance and insurance.

Harlequin Theatre president Carol Buck was equally pleased with the merger and said she was “extremely happy” with the news.

She said some members had agreed to the merger with a heavy heart as the company has been going since 1961, but they understood it was for the good of theatre.

“A lot of our members go to both anyway,” she said. “The scope of plays opens up too. Not just for those on the stage but also those working behind the scenes.”

The new entity would allow for both plays and musicals, a model which has worked well for theatres in other regions.

Both Cottle and Buck said the respective companies would retain the two buildings owned separately by Harlequin Theatre and MATS until they decided what they wanted to do with the assets.

Operations were to continue as normal until the end of the year when the merger will take place. A new name for the theatrical group would be announced then.