Stagecraft Theatre was formed in Wellington in 1958 by Keith Bennett and a group of adult students after their Workers' Education Authority drama classes came to an end.
Initially meeting in rooms at the Manufacturers' Federation, their primary goal was the active learning of and involvement in all aspects of theatre. Club nights were held weekly and performances were given in the Old Town Hall Concert Chamber.
Stagecraft's first real 'home' was demonlished in 1962 to make way for what is now Glover Park. The company was given the use of a condemned two-storey home at 13 Tonks Avenue by the City Council. The house, built in 1906, had been the Tonks' family home, a boarding house, brothel and squatters' flop. By 1962 it had no electricity, water or sewerage facilities. In mid-1964, after 15 months of hard work, it was opened by mayor Frank Kitts as a small studio theatre seating 50 people.
A strong emphasis on New Zealand plays characterised the earlier years. Speakers and trainers included practising professionals:
The following 35 years saw the production of over 200 full-length and one-act plays of all theatrical genres, as well as club nights and training workshops. While the fortunes of the company varied financially, the enthusiasm and commitment never waned.
In 1998 Stagecraft celebrated its 40th birthday, but the Tonks Avenue theatre was closed as a performance venue. Stagecraft became an itinerant 'touring company'. Productions were subsequently performed in venues as diverse as the Newtwon Community Centre, the Wellington Free Ambulance building at 5 Cable Street and the Poneke Rugby Club gymnasium. Club nights and rehearsals continued at Tonks Avenue until the formal eviction notice was received in February 2002.
Previous years of exploring the city for alternative affordable premises had proved fruitless and exhausting. It was with enormous relief and gratitude that Stagecraft accepted a 20-year lease of the ground floor property at 22 Ghuznee Street from our patrons Roy and Renate Savage. After much debate and discussion, 'Gryphon Theatre' was chosen as the name for the new venue.
Experienced theatre practitioner Grant Tilly donated his time and skill to design a flexible and innovative 90-seat performance space. Accent Architects and Mainzeal turned that design into a reality with building completed in March 2003.
The Gryphon Theatre is both a home of which the company is very proud and a hireable community performance venue enjoyed by Wellington audiences.
Last updated 11 February 2015