Milnerton Playhouse: a place of dreams

Tucked away behind the Milnerton library on Pienaar Road is a place where dreams are fulfilled and bright lights and talent prevail. The Milnerton Playhouse, a community theatre with a big reputation, was built in 1989 and is home to Milnerton Players which has been performing in the area since 1979.

For those who love the theatre, whether it is on stage, backstage or simply as audience, here is a local cultural icon that has mastered the art of presenting excellent theatre at affordable prices.

Over its 28 years, Milnerton Players has produced more than 125 plays and musicals – many of which have won awards – hosted countless visiting productions, both amateur and professional, involving all forms of the arts, including showcasing the works of local fine artists in the foyer.

So what is community theatre? It is a place to nurture new talent. Aspiring actors can test their skills either for fun or on the long and arduous road to becoming professional.

Milnerton Players has been the starting block for several young actors and singers who made their first appearance on this stage and have since gone on to become well-known professional performers. Think of names like Alan Committie, Marion Hind, Darren Kelfkens and you can understand why this community theatre plays such an important role.

Community theatres or amateur dramatic societies are not-for-gain, meaning that the dedicated people who work within the Playhouse are volunteers giving up their time for the love of the art, with no remuneration.

Many of the members have years of experience in theatre crafts, passing on skills such as acting, backstage management, technical, wardrobe, marketing and publicity, to bring the very best to local audiences, dispelling the myth that amateur means below par.

There is always space for new talent and the Players welcome more of the younger generation who bring new energy and ideas to the Playhouse.

Anyone has the opportunity to act whether at the regular informal social events, where readings take place over a glass of wine (or coffee), or to audition for upcoming productions.

If you shy away from the footlights, backstage and technical crew are much in demand.

Practically every year since the Playhouse has been in existence four or five productions have been presented. Popular Broadway musicals rub shoulders with tense drama, comedy and psychological thrillers.

The Players tackle sometimes the most difficult and intricate productions with huge success. A first for the Players was an Afrikaans production in 2016 which was very well received and opened the door to a new audience.

Ex-councillor Heather Brenner (who is the founder of Tabletalk) was one of the founding members, remaining active right up to her recent retirement and move to Great Brak.

Chairperson when the theatre opened its doors in 1989, she directed and acted in many productions.

Veteran director and actor Sheila McCormick and husband Fin, who specialise in lighting and set building, have been with the Milnerton Players since 1984 and have seen many changes over the years.

Still very active in the theatre (Sheila is directing the upcoming musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which runs from November 24 to December 9) their expertise is used in a variety of ways, not only to train a new generation but also in ensuring that the mandate of the theatre is met.

“The theatre was built for us after 10 long years of lobbying the then Milnerton Council for a permanent home.

“It was initially a bare shell with the most basic of necessities and every item of equipment from stage flooring, seating, flats for building sets, stage curtains, lighting and sound has been installed, and over the years upgraded, by many dedicated members, some, sadly no longer with us,” Sheila remembers.

The extension to the foyer is in constant use for rehearsals, social evenings, dinner theatre, parties and various functions as is the smoking room which is used for read-throughs, committee meetings, and a green room, when performances are taking place on the small foyer stage and occasionally as an extra dressing room. The whole complex can be hired subject to availability.

The Cape Amateur Theatre Awards (CATA) is a highlight of the year and includes all the major community theatres of Cape Town. Milnerton Players has seen more than its fair share of awards – a testament to the excellent work of the group.

In addition, the Milly’s is Milnerton Players own awards evening – an annual themed event, which acknowleges the hard work of all the participants of in-house productions.

All of the awards are judged by an independent panel of theatre experts, and nominated actors bite their nails nervously before each evening.

Beryl Eichenberger is a member of the Milnerton Players.