AN ASSISTANT stage manager who is currently touring with a production says she owes everything to Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre and urges everyone to support its fundraising campaign.
Leonie Hamilton, 24, from Pontnewynydd, works behind the scenes of stage productions, organising props, costume and scene changes and cues for the performers.
She is currently touring with John Godber's new play, Muddy Cows, for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Miss Hamilton, who was a member of the Congress Youth Theatre between the ages of 11 and 18, said: “My interest in the back stage role was sparked by The Congress Theatre as they put on great productions and the staff are really encouraging and offer wonderful opportunities.
“The theatre is a complete part of my life and I have no Idea what I would be doing if it wasn’t for them.”
The Cwmbran theatre is embarking on a fundraising drive to raise £100,000 for its first major refurbishment since it opened in 1972.
The most expensive part of the refurbishment will be the new seating that will cost £67,600.
The auditorium consists of 312 seats where 134 seats are capable of being pushed back.
Deputy manager, Richard Williams, explained that its takes two men half an hour to push the seats away so that the space can be used, so the new seating would mechanically move into place making the space easier to access.
The foyer works will costs £7,800 for new lighting, decoration, carpet, seating and a display stand.
The toilet refurbishment will cost £12,800 for new cubicles, windows, flooring, lighting and hand dryers.
While new carpet, lighting, tables, chairs and decoration for the lounge and bar will cost £16,800.
The venue’s regular stage groups include the Cwmbran Woodland Players and the Congress Youth Theatre, as well as numerous dance schools.
Miss Hamilton, a former St Albans School pupil, said: “My message to the people of Torfaen is please dig deep as it’s a worthy cause and an important part of the local community.
“Growing up it was like my second home and the volunteers like my extended family.”
She explained that although initially wanting to join in a performing capacity, she was given the opportunity to help with the younger children's shows as she got older, which gave her the taste for it.
When she's not touring she still helps out when she can.
She said: “I think the venue needs the funds to make it last longer for future generations and it also may attract bigger companies to put on shows there, which would increase its revenue.”
The Congress Theatre’s manager of nine years, Martyn Redwood, explained that the project to revamp the venue will be the biggest that it has ever undertaken.
The theatre, which currently has 78 volunteers, has running costs of £160,000, and the refurbishment payment will have to be raised on top of this.
Cwmbran councillors have backed the Congress Theatre’s plan for a refurbishment.
The chairman of Cwmbran Community Council, Cllr Bill Walker, said: “It’s a very popular venue for those living in Cwmbran and further afield who want to enjoy shows.
“I hope that the community get on board and support them in fundraising.”
Performers on the venues stage have included Jim Davidson, Max Boyce, psychic Colin Fry and Owen Money.
Cwmbran councillor, Tom Matthews, who is on the board of the Congress Theatre, said: “We hope to raise what we can and the seats are a priority as we endeavour to keep building on the theatre’s existing success.
“It’s important for Cwmbran to retain the theatre as it’s the only place for people of all ages to socialise by watching a show or taking classes in acting and dancing.”
Torfaen council also support the venue by providing £65,000 annually to pay the wages of its three paid staff.
Barclays Bank has already donated the first £500 to the fund and pledged to send some of its staff to help during the refurbishment.
To donate call Richard Williams or Martyn Redwood on 01633 868239.
You can donate by text: choose the amount you want to give and text CONG33 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 for example (just change the figure to alter the amount you give).