The company that will operate the new Waikato Regional Theatre is a step closer to take-off with the appointment of two directors with extensive venue, performing arts and business experience.

The Theatre, currently under construction in the South End of the Hamilton CBD, will be owned by the Waikato Regional Property Trust (WRPT), which was formed by Momentum Waikato, the community foundation leading the project and driving its fundraising.

Deborah Nudds, the Manager of The Meteor Theatre, and Chris Williams, the CEO of King St Advertising, will join three of the Theatre’s trustees, Ross Hargood, Belinda Mulgrew and Scott Ratuki, to form the inaugural board of the Waikato Regional Theatre Operating Company. They will be joined at a later date by the other trustees, Margi Moore, Ken Williamson and Glenn Holmes.

Ross, the Chair of the WRPT, says the new enterprise will deliver the services to be expected from a Theatre of its size and calibre, while striking a balance between commercial and community demands.

“We need to understand our community and our audiences,” says Ross, “so we can stage the variety of shows the people of the Waikato and beyond want to come and see.”

“The new Theatre needs to be really buzzing, offering something for everyone, all of the time. It has got to be a good place for a night out regardless of what you’re in to.

“We therefore needed to find directors with both good strong theatre and business backgrounds and a real grounding here in this place we call home.

“Deborah and Chris have strong theatre and commercial experience, they are both successful businesspeople in their own right, are committed locals with a passion for the performing arts, and are well known nationally in their fields, which adds credibility,” says Ross.

Deborah Nudds has managed The Meteor theatre in Hamilton for The One Victoria Trust since 2014, overseeing its meteoric rise in activity. She is passionate about local stories and creative voices building wellbeing for the whole community. Her previous successes include founding Hamilton’s iconic Metropolis Café.

“I want to positively influence the cultural life of my city and the region, by bringing my operational experience running a busy grassroots space to this new regional venue,” says Deborah.

“The Waikato Regional Theatre will sit at the top of the local performing arts eco-system, a modern fit-for-purpose space. I put my hand up for this role to help ensure that it is a community asset as well as a commercial success, which will be hard but not impossible.”

Chris Williams has worked in the creative field his whole working life. During the day he runs local advertising and marketing agency King St, which he has led since 1999. He has been Chair of the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival for the last 10 years, was foundation Chair of Creative Waikato and the Clarence St Theatre Trust and set up The Porch Recording Studio. An active composer and musician, Chris has had his two stage musicals performed in Hamilton and around New Zealand.

“The Waikato Regional Theatre will be something completely new for this city and region, so I was really excited at the prospect of being part of that – these opportunities don’t come along very often,” says Chris.

“I really believe in giving back to the community, so this is a great way to achieve that while doing something I love.

“The Theatre will put us on the map with local, national and international acts. Being in the middle of the CBD will drive its re-invigoration and be a real catalyst for further change.

“For local artists it will be a case of the rising tide lifting all boats – a world-class venue requires performances to match.

“This will be about following a few basics - getting the right people in place, formulating a plan, setting the budgets and targets, forming the right networks, putting together a smart programme, then helping the team make sure we stick to it all,” says Chris.

One of the first tasks for the new Theatre Operating Company will be the appointment of its General Manager. Advertising closed at the end of June and an announcement on who will fill the role is due in a few weeks’ time.

The Waikato Regional Theatre is due to open with its first shows in mid-2024.

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