The new $19 million Goulburn Performing Arts Centre, re-purposed from the former town hall, opened on Friday night (25 March) and didn’t miss a beat. The rates office, upstairs engineering department and round tables for council meetings have been swept aside for dressing rooms, opera pit, tiered seating for 400 people and, of course, a stage.
Leading the opening night’s guest list was Governor-General David Hurley, who said he was impressed with the architecture, but also what the Performing Arts Centre represented.
“To me, this is a fine example of how communities work, how volunteers come together with paid staff, with leadership and produce something that is central to the core of the community, because this is where our humanity resides, right in a building like this,” he said.
The entrance is no longer through swinging double doors at the front, it’s along an all-access ramp to the side of the ornate E C Manfred-designed building into a glassed atrium, with the theatre entrance on one side and a bar on the other side. Shows will be more accessible too.
GPAC manager Raina Savage said: “What really excites me is that from this generation on, every child in Goulburn, regardless of their social, economic or cultural background, will have the opportunity to experience the magic of theatre as their birthright.”
She said GPAC filled a big gap in the community’s cultural infrastructure. It could host world-class performances, including opera, symphony, ballet, and leading contemporary circus, dance, cabaret, and theatre companies. All these and small companies presenting culturally diverse work would appear over the next few years.
To celebrate the new venue, just about every type of performance was recalled from ancient to more recent times.
A montage projected onto the stage highlighted plays, street parades, pipes and drums; concerts reminded the town that even though the Lilac Time Hall closed to performing arts when it became a cinema, Goulburn continued performing for decades in the streets, the Lieder Theatre, Goulburn Club, Hume Conservatorium and Rocky Hill Musical Theatre Company. And they all contributed to the entertainment on Friday night.
Goulburn actor and former deputy mayor Alfie Walker, who directed the extravaganza, REeNTRANCE, with his wife, Alicia, opened the presentation with an Indigenous overview using earth and trees, water, fire, wind from the heavens and birds and animals to create shared experiences. For thousands of years, these moments were recorded by First Nations people through song, dance, storytelling, artworks and tool making such as a message stick.
Goulburn Performing Arts Centre is located at 163 Auburn Street. Upcoming shows include Flickerfest 2022 (3 April), The Alphabet of Awesome Science (8 April) and Bookfest 2022 (10 April).