SOUTH OTAGO THEATRICAL SOCIETY
The South Otago Theatrical Society (SOTS) has been entertaining the people of Clutha since 1968, when the Balclutha Drama Club amalgamated with the South Otago Musical Society.
The Balclutha Drama Club was formed in 1936, back in the days when every small town in the District had its own Drama Club and one act play festivals were big entertainment. During the 1940s, the South Otago Drama Festival involved groups from places such as Kaitangata, Benhar, Lovells Flat, Waipahi and Clinton and up to 15 plays would be seen over the three night season at the Britannia Theatre on Clyde St.
The South Otago Musical Society was formed in 1966 after the success of several musical productions that had featured as part of the Balclutha Festival Week which began in 1958. In 1968, the two organisations amalgamated and became the South Otago Theatrical Society to the benefit of both. The young Musical Society gained the wealth of expertise of the Drama Club Members, plus props, sets and a section on which plans were made to build clubrooms: the Drama Club were in financial difficulties with a falling membership so the amalgamation gave them financial stability as well as wider theatrical opportunities for its members.
Over the years, SOTS has entertained audiences with a mixed fare, producing major musicals, straight plays, pantomimes, one-act plays, theatre restaurants and revues. Larger shows were usually performed in the Balclutha Memorial Hall.
GEORGE STREET THEATRE
The first rehearsal rooms the Theatrical Society occupied were in Clyde St, in a house on the site now occupied by the Creative Arts Centre. The house was leased to the society from the Council for $104 per annum plus rates and insurance.
In 1973, the Kia Ora Tearooms in Gordon St. came onto the market, incorporating a house and a hall. The Society bought the property for $14,000 and renovated the hall for rehearsal and storage while renting the house out to service the mortgage. The house deteriorated over the years and the Society spent many years investigating other options, finally settling, in 1987, on the purchase of the old Mack Traders/Household Joinery building in George St. for $60,000. The Gordon St Property was burnt down as a training exercise for the Balclutha Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Since then, many thousands of dollars and many hours of volunteer labour have been spent on the property, which now consists of a theatre, a commercial kitchen, props storage, a set construction area and a wardrobe/costume hire building. Currently, plans are afoot for an upgrade and renovation - watch this space!