Theatre Royal manager Hal Martin speaks about his new role. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Beers, Burgers, Banter


Every few weeks the Nelson Weekly speaks to someone interesting doing something interesting. This time we catch up with Hal Martin, the new manager at the Theatre Royal about what brought him back to New Zealand after nine years managing theatres in Australia.

What brought you here?

I was based in Australia in a smaller town in south western Victoria but I was keen to come back to New Zealand. I was born and raised in Wellington. The issue had always been when and if jobs come up because in the arts they are very few and far between in New Zealand.

How did you get into the arts in the first place?

I’ve always been an artisan designer and have a family background in the theatre, my mother and father were involved in acting in community theatre for 50 years. So, we went along to a lot of the shows they were in. It’s kind of in the blood.

But being an artisan while bringing up children is hard and so I started managing an art school in Wellington then an arts centre in Auckland and then jumped across the ditch. There I managed theatres and galleries. A bit of a varied career really. But after nine years I thought I had had enough – the pull of family and friends was pretty strong.

What did you like about Nelson?

I didn’t really know Nelson. Been here two or three times but really just me passing through.

But I did know it had the right mix in the lifestyle and big enough to have critical mass to have bars and restaurants and a truck load of events that come along. There is a strong arts community here and the job itself in a heritage building, an amazing building which we can present very sophisticated productions.

What is your vision for the theatre?

The trust is keen to look at more ways of bringing in new hires. It is predominantly a venue for hire but we go a long way to helping people with that.

We are still tossing some ideas around and how it would look but in general we are keen to involve the seniors and young people more in the theatre. We get a little bit but it’s about getting the broadest possible cross section of the community using the theatre. Particularly when it comes to young people. Not everyone is going to be captured by the magic of theatre if you get them young, but every so often there will be some who think it’s wonderful.

We have a lot of local community theatre that does bring in young locals but every now and then it would be good to get travelling shows doing the same thing.

How to you do that?

It’s a bit of a learning curve as I’ve been away for nine years and when I was here I wasn’t really dealing with theatre. Part of the role is getting a good mix of shows coming in and we would like to get more travelling shows in.

I am starting a bit from scratch in terms of understanding the New Zealand theatre scene, so a lot is just networking, talking on the phone, sometimes meeting them personally and staying in touch, and getting our name out there to touring productions to make sure people know about us when they are planning tours.

Part of the role is making sure we have a good mix of shows coming in and as many as we can possibly fit in. Last year we had 319 shows in the theatre, which is pretty amazing considering there are only 350 open days a year.