Porirua Little Theatre 1998
Photographs shown with permission from - Ken Browne.
The Founding Of Titahi Bay Little Theatre
In 1950.....'The Titahi Bay Plunket Mother's Group' had a Drama Group and Gwyneth Hart was the organisor. Ellinore's neighbour Twink McInnes, told the group that she had a new arrival to the Bay, Ellinore Ginn who was her neighbour. When Twink told Gwyneth that Ellinore was a RADA graduate. Gwyneth, with much agitation asked her if Ellinore would consider lowering herself to their level and read the part of Madame Arcati from Blithe Spirit. Back came the reply that Ellinore had consented to join the group immediately.
Twink took Ellinore to the group and did a reading of French for Love for them, which she had produced and was successful in spite of their trepidation, because everyone was in awe of such a vital and dramatic person amongst their midst. Afterwards, Ellinore told them there was a nucleus of a bigger drama club - and so from that, she was persuaded to repeat the performance in the then empty Army Hall in Whitehouse Road, Titahi Bay. They played to a standing room only audience and not long after it, it was decided to form a proper drama group and with her production of French for Love, Titahi Bay Little Theatre was born.
Ellinore was a naturally gregarious person, and was so lonely when she arrived in New Zealand, that she used to stop people in the street and invite them home for tea. Molly Brice was one of her friends who often had morning tea with Ellinore and she was beseeched to 'start' something in the Bay. "Okay" she said.
With the assistance of the local milkman Trevor Young who agreed to drop handwritten notes in each letter box, while he delivered milk on his rounds, she was able to inform the community that there was 'a new idea' afoot, and if anyone was interested, they were to meet at her place one evening. Her friend NZ Artist Rita Angus was staying with her at the time and she was very enthusiastic and encouraging. The following was also publicised on the local community notice board:
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"A meeting will be held on October 12 at 7.30pm at Ginn's residence 28 Richard Street where the intention of Titahi Bay Little Theatre will be discussed. All welcome"
Eleven women and one man turned up that night - there was always a shortage of men, and the theatre was formed. They charged a 10/- fee. They then set out to find carpenters, painters and seamstresses - and were most fortunate in getting Harry Underwood (carpenter), Hector Jackson (stage effects), Peter Blackbee (electrician), and Mary Day (Seamstress) All the props for forthcoming shows were made by the local carpenter, and a few others were rented from the Opera House in Wellington.
Then on November 8th again at Ellinore's home, the inaugural meeting was held, a quorum was formed and officers elected. Molly Brice became President, and Ellinore instant producer. The secretary was Beryl Brown, treasurer Twink McInnes and stage manager Hector Jackson. In the committee were Lillian Bradshaw, Joyce Harmer, Audrey Hildreth, Mae Phypers, Terry Walker, Tony Day, Alan Gerrie and Russel Ginn.
It took off to a shaky start at first and more meetings were held. It didn't take long to receive membership, and by 1951 there were approximately 130 members. In it's first 10 years, the plays tended to be standards from the English and European stages; Noel Coward, Yves Cabral, Anton Chekhov and JM Synge.
Titahi Bay looking North, with the Army Hall in the centre. The Golf Club (now Tireti Hall) is on the far left. c.1950
In March 1951, Ellinore directed 'Hay Fever' by Noel Coward. It was the first play to be put on at the Theatre - then known as the Army Hall. And in July, she directed 'Gaslight' the famous Edwardian drama of suspense. She believed no other actress than herself could play the part of Bella with enough poignancy. And so with a little encouragemnt from make-up and hairpieces, she felt she was right for the part. It was a drama indeed she recalled. 'We had real gaslight. I was playing the lead and endeavouring to outdo Ingrid Bergman. I had just reached a climax during my crescendo speech where I accusing my husband of dupicity, when I was upstaged by the curtain catching fire! End of performance.' It was real gaslight and she had used matches.
Other plays that she directed were:
Racketty Packetty House ... Dec 1951
Castle in the Air ... June 1952
Back to Zero ... July 1957
In between directing, painting, teaching art, and bringing up a family of 5 daughters with her husband Russel, she managed to be in some plays herself and they included:
Hiss the Villian ... May 1957
An Ideal Husband ... April 1959
Ring Round the Moon ... Nov 1959
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And in 1960 she rewrote Alice in Wonderland and produced it as a major show for 3 days in August, to make money for the local Catholic Church in Titahi Bay. It was put on at the Theatre with many theatre members acting in it.
The following, is a little jingle, that Max Bollinger, a friend of Ellinore's wrote for her - from a well known tune called Champagne Charlie.
As I drive around in my Braddy Van
People all stand and stare.
Is it the way I do my hair?
Or the colourful clothes I wear?
Is it because I drive on the right hand side?
Or because I take the corners wide?
No, I'm the girl that founded Little Theatre.
Some of the original members from the early 50's became Ellinore and Russel's lifelong friends.
They included: Graeme & Betty Eaton, Trixie Brodie, Audrey Hildreth, Terry & Ian Walker, Marie & Pat Stephens, Gay & Georg Kohlap and Alan & Helen Smith. Helen was the Patron of Porirua Little Theatre from 1976 for 32 years.
Ellinore became a life member in 1956 and retired from the theatre in 1963. She wanted to pursue her painting career, which spanned over 45 years in New Zealand and overseas. When Ellinore had just left the theatre, her new neighbours Jack and Jenny Frost joined - and a wonderful friendship started. There was the bartering of paintings etc, in exchange for Jack's skills, new wallpaper to be put up yet again in Ellinore's sitting room, a shelf or two, another paint job, meals together, and the usual: 'Do drop in for a Gin dear.'
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Seated left to right: Alan Simpson - Basil Mahan - Barbara Jackson - Unknown - Brian Jackson
31 October, 1980
Ellinore cutting the cake at the Theatre's 30th. birthday celebration.
50th. Birthday Cake
The theatre has since changed its name several times throughout the years and today is now known as the Porirua Little Theatre.
Porirua Little Theatre life members at the 50th. birthday celebrations - June 2000.
Charles Ellis, Theresa Savory, Bob Cater,
Lyn Ellis, Basil Mahan, Margot Stuart
Beryl Brown, Adele Mahan,
Helen Smith, Marion Slow
Jack and Jenny Frost
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