Notes on TOMOANA PLAYERS
The Tomoana Players was a theatrical group whose membership came from staff members of the Freezing Works (as locals termed the company of Nelsons (N.Z.) Ltd.) The Executive Committee met monthly in the Fire Brigade rooms at the Works and they assiduously managed not only the production of plays and musical performance, but the distribution of the profits from the performance, for they went ‘on tour’ to Dannevirke, Waipukurau and occasionally Waipawa.
The organisations which benefited from the income usually got a proportional amount depending on how many tickets they sold, although this was not always the case. The Committee would make payments to any group they felt deserving of help. The beneficiaries included Kindergarten groups, Intermediate Schools, the Hastings Citizens Band, the League for the Hard of Hearing, Merchant Navy Club, the Apostleship of the Sea and the Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home.
There was a rules book which was tenaciously adhered to: Rule Number 32 said, “No obscene or immoral plays, readings, sketches may be performed by the Society.” and the Minutes record occasional discussions over whether this Rule was being followed as seriously as it should!
Reading the Minute book in the year 2017 is a reminder of how the technology of theatres and music has changed over the years. In March 1958 the committee discussed the possibilities of forming a library of tape recordings of each play but a member suggested that the tape recordings would not be of great value and a tape recorder be purchased instead. A committee member inquired into the cost and it was decided “to purchase one without delay. The reason being with import restrictions as they are, it would be difficult to buy one later on.”
The parent company, Tomoana Freezing Works do not figure very prominently in the Minutes but occasionally there are signs of a larger organisation offering assistance for hard-to-solve problems: where to build and store the theatrical sets which were built for every production – sometimes they appear to be quite elaborate, a reinforced balcony being required for example – and that was when a large space was needed so when the “season” i.e. the killing season, was over, so one supervisor nominated his work area. One wonders which part of the killing floor was used for the glamorous setting of a romantic comedy?
Casting a play from the permanent members of a freezing works was sometimes logistically difficult. The “girls” in the office were approached and an audition was arranged but although one girl would be suitable for a prompt and two other would be suitable for properties but although “unsuitable for the play concerned it was felt that their interest should be kept”. It was in 1960 that an outsider was considered for an important part in the production of “Ten Little Niggers” and the engaging of Mr J. Morgan for the part of Rogers was authorised. James Morgan was to become the founding “father” of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank.
Two years later it was announced that two non-Tomoana staff members had had to be recruited as no suitable persons were available within the firm.