Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, on 4 April this year a local community theatre group in Launceston, the Encore Theatre Company, celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
In April 2008 Encore was founded with a mission to bring family, friendship, love, laughter, curiosity, risk, hope and possibility to the masses via the theatre. The theatre group's objectives include promoting an appreciation of the arts, particularly live theatre, within the community; presenting public performances of live theatre, concerts and any other activity which promotes the arts; encouraging, assisting and developing the full range of talents associated with the development of the arts; providing local, talented individuals more opportunities to refine and develop their skills by staging at least two productions per financial year; achieving the highest possible production standards with the resources available; and positioning the group as a valued local cultural icon.
Encore is a not-for-profit community theatre group that involves from 150 to 200 people in each production. These volunteers spend innumerable hours covering all facets of theatre, including acting, singing, dancing, costume design and making, set design, making and painting properties, hairdressing, make-up, orchestra, advertising and marketing, ticket sales, directing, stage managing, lighting, sound, transport, ushering and more.
Encore successfully debuted in 2008, with its production of The Sound of Music. Many wonderful theatrical experiences followed, including Les Miserables, Fawlty Towers, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Wicked, Hair, Beauty and the Beast, High School Musical, The Boy from Oz, and the crowning achievements of presenting Jon English in Jesus Christ Superstar and Sue Hodge in The Vicar of Dibley. Over the past decade Encore has provided entertainment for more than 110 000 theatre patrons in 28 productions. The group uses the Princess Theatre, as well as the Earl Arts Centre, to house its shows, and aims to do at least two productions each calendar year.
The group has been the recipient of many awards over the past 10 years, including the Launceston Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Event Award - for Mary Poppins - and the Enhancing Regional Cultural Award, the City of Launceston Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, Cultural and Heritage Volunteer Recognition Award and, as an outstanding community event, the Australia Day Award for Jesus Christ Superstar. It has also won recognition at the Tasmanian Theatre Awards, established in 2015.
In four years, these productions have earned a staggering 51 nominations and won 15 awards, including Best Musical Theatre Production twice, for Mary Poppins and Wicked. Not content with just working towards its own successes, the company actively engages with the Launceston private and public school communities, supporting their school productions in meaningful ways through mentoring opportunities with visiting sound and lighting theatre practitioners. There is free loan of microphones, stage sets, equipment, costumes, stage props and more. The company assists with marketing school productions to the wider community, with an eye on building engagement and audiences for all future productions. Attention is also paid to developing artists with the Encore Theatre Company investing in a number of bursaries to assist emerging performers and theatre artists to pursue their passion for a professional career in the arts.
All of this is achieved without the support of Arts Tasmania or Australia Council funding. Rather, the company has been supported through its engagement with the private sector and the City of Launceston events sponsorship program. This collectively amounts to just under 15 per cent of its needs, with some 85 per cent-plus of funds coming through the box office as the company strives to deliver one successful production after another. Since launching in 2008, Encore has built an audience of up to 16 000-plus annually, whose members are able to experience high-quality musical theatre at a third to a quarter of the price of mainland professional productions. I am sure many members, particularly those from the north, have been to many Encore theatre productions.
Ms Forrest - Absolutely, and I hang around backstage afterwards.
Ms ARMITAGE - Absolutely and I can certainly attest to how good they are.
Ms Forrest - They are very good.
Ms ARMITAGE - Fifty-nine per cent of Encore's audience is drawn from within the City of Launceston. Of the 41 per cent audience drawn from outside council boundaries, 9 per cent travel from as far as Hobart, and up to 5 per cent comprises interstate and overseas visitors. Invariably Encore is responsible for providing up to 20 per cent of the total annual audience at the Princess Theatre and the Earl Arts Centre, and has done so for a number of years now. This is a company that punches way above its weight as it delivers social capital to the community, demonstrates enormous benefits to local business economy and successfully taps into intrastate and interstate tourism, all the while adding to the variety of quality entertainment available in Tasmania.
To borrow from one of its productions, like Mary Poppins, 'Everyone deserves the chance to fly' and Encore has given the Launceston arts scene a set of new wings.