18 September 2023

Ghostly Golden Age Theatre at Illawarra iTeC given new lease of life

| Kellie O'Brien
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theatre auditorium

Inside the Golden Age Theatre at Illawarra iTeC, which has been renovated after water damage. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

The charming, 105-seat art deco Golden Age Theatre at Illawarra iTeC, which is home to entertainment students and a friendly ghost, has been restored after water damage saw its doors close.

Extensive renovations, including roof repairs and a fresh coat of paint, will now allow the theatre to be used not only for theatrical performances, but also for corporate presentations, film screenings, and live music concerts.

Illawarra iTeC business development manager Virginia Wren said the Coniston theatre was equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, professional lighting, and sound equipment to allow for all manner of events in the space and provide students with real-world experience.

“We had a leak in the roof, which totally destroyed some of the walls inside, and so all of that was renovated,” Virginia said.

“We did want to renovate it anyway, but there was a lot of damage done there because of the roof.

“It’ll be really lovely because it’s got a nice feel to it – even though it has a ghost.”

According to staff members, the “friendly ghost” that frequents iTeC’s main office building and intimate theatre has long been talked about.

Staff have heard footsteps, their names being called out, felt a tap on the shoulder and seen furniture moved – yet no-one was there.

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Before the theatre was damaged, it was hosting three different entertainment courses – music, live production, and screen and media.

The courses are part of the not-for-profit registered training organisation’s employment training and small-business services, which also include retail, hospitality, construction and business courses.

“We often have bands come in,” Virginia said.

“The trainers, they all have to have industry experience.

“One of the trainers was just saying to me he was really tired because he’d been away helping with James Reyne in the Northern Territory at one of his concerts all weekend.

“So because they have to have their industry experience to be a trainer, they all have their own music connections.”

Virginia said one of those was trainer Shane Jerome, who works with Aussie band Dragon, renowned for its hits Are You Old Enough? and April Sun in Cuba.

“We won’t have Dragon or James Reyne, but the guys will use their own contacts to get bands to come in, and then all the students will do all the lighting and the sound,” she said.

“It’s a great experience for the students.”

exterior of theatre building

Signage that invites people into the art deco Illawarra iTeC theatre at Coniston. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

She said the space offered a more intimate setting, fostering a strong connection between the audience and the stage.

“The acoustics there are fantastic – while we do have them, you don’t need to have microphones for speakers, because of the acoustics,” she said.

The main iTeC building was originally an aircraft hangar brought in from Alice Springs, and additional rooms were added over time.

“So the story that I heard was that this building was an aircraft hangar, which, if you look at it, it looks like a hangar,” Virginia said, referencing the curved roof.

“There’s an old sign out there, which nobody’s painted over, because it was a hardware store for a while.”

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Later, it would become the base for 313 Wollongong City Employment and Training, before Illawarra iTeC made it its home from the early 2010s.

Having been running for 36 years, iTeC had relocated a few times before settling at the Miller St location.

“We named all the training rooms rather than say ‘training room one’ or ‘training room two’,” Virginia said.

“I think because the theatre is so old, it was fitting to call it the Golden Age Theatre.”

You can learn more about how to hire the theatre at 1-5 Miller St, Coniston, on the iTeC website.

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