By ANNETTE SNARS | Photos by CHRIS LUNDIE
It’s generally agreed 2020 has been like no other year in living memory. The Pavilion Theatre, home to Castle Hill Players, was one week from opening its second production of the 2020 Season, Things I Know to be True by Andrew Bovell directed by Carol Wimmer, when COVID-19 struck and we all went into lockdown.
Every aspect of the production was ready to go and advance bookings were excellent in anticipation of another outstanding presentation by one of Sydney’s leading community theatre groups.
The sudden closure of the theatre on March 19 left the set intact on stage and, following a tradition dating back centuries, a Ghost Light was installed on the stage, joining the Sydney Opera House, the Capital Theatre, Belvoir and Griffin theatres (amongst others) in a symbolic response to the shutdown of arts activity across the country.
The iconic Hills District organization has entertained residents and provided a legitimate theatre experience for hundreds if not thousands of actors, directors, designers, operators and theatre enthusiasts for well in excess of 60 years from its Castle Hill Showground location.
During lockdown access to the theatre building was barred by Hills Shire Council, however, as soon as permission was granted members, lead by Steven Wimmer set about doing some much needed maintenance to the historic building which was originally a show pavilion in the early days of the Castle Hill Show, hence the theatre’s name.
The building, which includes a front of house bar area,150 seat auditorium, stage with wings, workshop, mezzanine storage, backstage bathroom and green room has been cleaned out and reorganised to better store tools and building materials, props, costumes and lighting equipment, as well as receiving a real spruce up with fresh paint, a beautiful new stage curtain and a thorough clean.
CHP is like a family, and during the year this family has experienced many highs and lows. Significant birthdays for several members, particularly matriarchs, Jean Churchward and Judith Burgess, and the sad passing of Life Member, Harry Hyland, a stalwart of the theatre and indeed the Hills District.
As theatres slowly and carefully reopen, CHP is taking the first steps to opening its doors to a wonderfully supportive public, many of whom have sent messages of support and encouragement.
It is with breathless excitement The Pavilion is able to announce a return to the stage with a one act play reading of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds to be performed in November. Details are still being finalised, and will be published on the CHP website and Facebook page shortly.
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