The bush opera house at Morundah is set to emerge as the jewel in the crown of the region’s artistic community.
The Morundah Bush Entertainment Committee has won grants worth more than $300,000 to retrofit the Paradise Palladium theatre in the tiny village to cater for conferences, workshops, movies, live music, theatre productions and opera.
Riverina Water gave the Morundah Bush Entertainment Committee a grant of $12,930 to go towards fitting a projector into the theatre, with the project completed by Custom Music, Narrandera.
The MBEC was also successful in the Stronger Country Communities Grant round three for $197,500 to complete the fit out of the theatre with some of the projects including new comfortable seating, reverse cycle air conditioning, new sound system and additional stage lights.
The funding news was a bright light for the regional arts community decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opera, Tosca, had been due to be held at Morundah in May but was cancelled along with musical workshops with students from Narrandera and Urana high schools.
Events coordinator and public officer David Fahey said the theatre was lucky to receive almost $320,000 in funding in three grants.
“We would just like to get on with it but some suppliers have closed down due to COVID,” he said. “We now have a $17,000 projector so when things ease, we can offer conferencing, movies and a greater variety of entertainment into the future.
“We will be installing a $70,000 sound system and $30,000 of new seating.”
Mr Fahey said patrons will enjoy comfortable seating and reverse cycle air conditioning, a professional sound system and additional lighting.
“We have already laid concrete pathways so patrons don’t have to walk on the rough ground, and we are about to put a storage shed in for the excess equipment,” he said. “I would like to think by January we will have it up and running.”
In the past, the committee relied on hiring equipment but now entertainers will be able to “plug and play”.
Mr Fahey said the climate control would allow different events to be held year-round.
“We are putting in an electric hoist system so we don’t have to be up ladders changing lights.
“There will be front of house theatre curtains installed.
“We will still host opera and ballet but it opens the options for a lot more varied events.”
The new facilities will be showcased in 2021 with a double bill of documentary theatre, Stardust and The Mission, set down for April 21.
Starring ABC presenter and performer, Joel Carnegie, and Gunditjmara actor, Tom Molyneux, the documentaries are two stories about love, music and war.
The Gunditjmara man returns home from war only to be forced from his traditional lands. The performance won best innovation in the 2017 New York Festival’s International Radio Awards.
Mr Fahey said the theatre could seat 100 people under COVID restrictions but would be financially unviable.
“We get pitched shows all the time but I don’t want to be too far in front and some of the shows we’ve hand on hold were reliant on us getting the new equipment in the theatre,” he said. “I’ve been writing grant applications for 14 years but this is an excellent result.
“We are nearly up to $1 million that we have raised to build the theatre and that is not bad for a little committee of 10 people.”
Mr Fahey said once restrictions ease, people will be craving to get out and about.
“The arts industry is the next cab off the rank to receive government financial assistance, hopefully, and we want to be ready to go.
“We are trying not to compete with Leeton, Griffith or Wagga by having exclusive shows here.”