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Dramatic merger complete

Masterton Theatrical Society’s new president Chris Connor. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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It’s only taken four decades and two generations to do it, but the merger between two of Masterton’s oldest theatre groups is finally complete.

The merger between Harlequin Theatre and the Masterton Amateur Theatrical Society [MATS] is a project which was first touted in 1974 by then President of Harlequin Theatre Ray New.

Earlier this month, that vision was realised through the creation of the Masterton Theatre Company and election of its new members, which included New’s daughter Chris Connor, who was elected president of the new group.

“Forty-five years ago, my father, first mooted the idea of the two societies merging,” she said.

“He saw there were many people who belonged to both societies.”

She’d always had a foot in each door, having performed for both MATS and Harlequin since she was a young girl.

Her two daughters had also carried on the theatre tradition.

The merger was first announced in June as both clubs had been experiencing a membership decline and survival on their own seemed unlikely.

It had previously been put off as previous members had wanted to retain the independence and respective history of their clubs.

Connor said merging would help reduce administrative costs such as rates, maintenance and insurance.

She also hoped it would increase youth participation and see the next generation of performers coming through,

“There’s a strong network of children interested. We want to keep that going and give them opportunities to perform locally,” she said.

The Masterton Theatre Company already has a full calendar of projected performances and workshops planned for the coming year, including a Murder Mystery event to be held at MATS next month, she said.

Though they would mostly operate from the MATS building on Ngaumatawa Rd, Harlequin Theatre on Dixon St would remain in use as a performing centre for smaller productions as well during the transition next year.

Next year all costumes would be housed in the Gaiety Theatre wardrobe where they could also be hired out.

There were still hopes to see a purpose-built theatre in Masterton after enquiries into refurbishing the YMCA building came to nothing.

“It was [my father’s] dream to have a new, modern, purpose-built theatre in Masterton, where all forms of theatre could be performed,” Connor said.

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