Downstage Theatre

The Hannah Playhouse is a small theatre venue situated on the corner of Courtenay Place and Cambridge Terrace in central Wellington, New Zealand. It seats approximately 250 people in the main auditorium.[1] The theatre was built in 1973 and replaced the Downstage Theatre company's earlier premises upstairs on the same site. The new Hannah Playhouse building was also home to the company until its 2013 disbanding, and the building itself is still often unofficially referred to as Downstage Theatre.

Hannah Playhouse
Former namesDownstage Theatre
General information
Location12 Cambridge Terrace, Te Aro, Wellington
OwnerExperience Wellington
Design and construction
ArchitectJames Beard
Awards and prizes1978 New Zealand Institute of Architects Award; 2006 Award for Enduring Architecture

Raymond Boyce, New Zealand's Living Treasure Theatre Designer, was on the board of Downstage when the playhouse was built and he acted as the Theatre consultant to the architects Ron Parker and James Beard.


The Downstage Theatre Company was established in 1964 and the country's longest running professional theatre. The founders at the inaugural meeting in the Wellington Public Library on 15 May 1964 were actors Peter Bland, Tim Eliott and Martyn Sanderson, and restaurateur Harry Seresin, owner of the "Walkabout" coffee bar, located in the building that stood prior to the Hannah Playhouse. Sanderson believed in a small professional company in Wellington performing challenging works in an intimate venue, and the first Downstage Theatre productions were performed on a stage in the upper floor of Seresin's coffee bar.[2]

The first locally-written production, in 1966, was Father's Day a dark social comedy by Peter Bland starring Pat Evison as the eccentric mother with two pregnant daughters. In 1968 the company took over the building, and the whole upper storey was remodelled to become the new adaptable Theatre Restaurant. This was designed by B. Woods as the major project in his final year at the Wellington School of Design, and the builder was Graham Maclean. The Downstage Theatre Company continued to operate from this original building, and moved to the Star Boating Club building in the early 1970s while the new playhouse was being built. Downstage Theatre closed in 2013, citing a lack of adequate and stable funding.[3]


  1. Thomson, Rebecca (7 January 2010). "Downstage - a Wellington fixture". The Dominion Post. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  2. "Tim Eliott (Obituary)". The Dominion Post. Fairfax Media. 14 May 2011. p. A28.
  3. Cardy, Tom (17 September 2013). "Downstage theatre company to close". The Dominion Post. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 18 October 2018.

Further references can be found in

  • Smythe, John (2004) Downstage Upfront - A 40th Anniversary Biography, ISBN 9780864734891

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