President of Criterion Theatre, Fran McHugh, is looking for more community support to save the theatre.
President of Criterion Theatre, Fran McHugh, is looking for more community support to save the theatre.

Curtain may fall on Criterion

THE community must act to save the Criterion Theatre in Oliver Street, Grafton.

The Criterion, home of local theatre, musicals and comedy skits, may not survive without greater community support.

President of the Criterion, Fran McHugh, has issued this warning: “We can’t keep going unless people support us”.

“Productions like this are such a long tradition so we need to keep it going in the Clarence Valley,” she said.

The theatre, home for local productions since the early 60s, is in desperate need of repair. Lack of funds means theatre crew and staff must come up with the much needed money through shows, fund-raisers and community support.

“We are stuck with a very old building that needs constant maintenance and urgent roof attention, which is estimated at around $20, 000,” Ms McHugh said.

The theatre’s Christmas production ran at a small loss. Not enough people turned out to watch the production which had taken more than six months of effort to put together.

Ms McHugh said operating costs were in the vicinity of $12,000 per year. Income was needed to cover the cost of operation, maintenance and repair.

Teenager Angus Stewart played a part in the Criterion’s 2009 combined schools musical The Wiz and is looking forward to further opportunities in the acting industry.

The star in the making said he would be disappointed to see the theatre close as he knows first-hand just how much work goes into every show.

“If there was no theatre I would miss out on the opportunity to meet lots of new people and participate in other productions,” he said.

While theatre staff acknowledge that they have challenges ahead to keep producing top-notch shows to draw audiences, Ms McHugh said the community had its role to play as well.

“We need new blood,” she said

Criterion Theatre supporters will meet on February 3 at the Criterion to consider the theatre’s future.



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