The curtain will soon rise on the stage of the Armidale Playhouse.
The funding committee, Armidale Playhouse Inc., has received more than $191,000 from the NSW Government's My Community Project fund to renovate the disused theatre.
The money will be used to create a 105-seat theatre, an intimate space perfect for drama, musical performances (either classical or jazz), and song recitals.
"It will enable us to provide Armidale with its own publicly owned theatre," Dr Bruce Menzies, funding committee member, said. "It will be a wonderful resource for the community."
He is optimistic that building work will start early next year, and the Playhouse reopened by June.
Under the My Community Project grants, the NSW government made $24.7 million available in projects to improve the well-being of NSW people and residents.
The Playhouse was one of two projects in the Northern Tablelands electorate that successfully applied for funding. Guyra Sporting Complex has also received $120,000 for a spectator grandstand.
The Armidale Playhouse, a converted schoolroom, hosted drama productions since the 1960s, but no actors have performed there for a decade.
The theatre closed because it could not meet building requirements; the Playhouse has since been used for rehearsals, meetings, and storage. These days, plays are staged at TAS Hoskins Centre or at UNE - neither owned by the community.
"A readily accessible and reasonably priced small venue will make it easier for local performing groups and individual performers to put on performances," Armidale Playhouse Inc. wrote on their application.
"This should lead to greater theatrical activity in Armidale and a wider and more diverse performing arts culture. This will be further enhanced by hosting visiting and touring performers."
The building is a long, thin room, with toilets on the other side of a dividing wall. That wall will be knocked down; a weight-supporting beam will go through the length of the auditorium, widening the building to create more space.
Dr Menzies expected the builders, Nick Paliadelis and Son Constructions, to start work in February or March. He also thanked architects Magoffin & Deakin, whose Tony Deakin designed the theatre pro bono.
Renovating the interior will cost $400,000, Dr Menzies estimates. The Armidale Drama & Musical Society will contribute $55,000 from its reserves. An auction last year raised $16,000, and a trivia night in May about $5,000. Chris Ross-Smith (former head of the UNE Drama Department) has contributed $10,000 for a bar, to be named the Barmadillo.
The committee have already spent $110,000 refurbishing the bathrooms.
The renovations do not include painting and weatherboarding the exterior, or installing sound and lights.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has been very supportive, and Dr Menzies hopes future funding may enable them to complete the Playhouse.
Dr Menzies thanked the public who voted for the Playhouse renovations in the My Community Project grants.
"There were a lot of very worthy community projects out there, but I'm pleased that ours won the support of a lot of the population," he said. "Obviously, that shows the people in the community are behind us; they want to see our own theatre that will be a great asset to the community."