To Theatre or not to Theatre?

March 18, 2021

By Lynette Shanbury, Executive Director

Last month our big new sign went up on the front of our venue. It says ‘Polka Theatre’ loud and proud. But we had a lot of discussions internally about what that sign should say. Really? you say. What else would it say? 

Across theatres, there’s been a bit of a trend over the last decade or more to rename to something that doesn’t involve the word theatre or to shorten or abbreviate a venue name. As well as being on-trend, this has perhaps been a response to the knowledge that theatre can seem scary and alien to some people, and an attempt to make arts venues less of a barrier in their own right to people coming through the doors. It also recognises that venues are doing much more than just putting on shows.  

But what are we if not a theatre? Polka (note to Ed: never ‘the’ Polka) is first and foremost a theatre for children. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be so much more. We’re a play space, a café, a safe place to come and hang out, a place for discovery and joy. And we do it all through theatre, in the widest sense of the word – providing a space for creativity, personal growth and fun.  

Last month also marked one year since theatres across the country closed. Theatres and theatre people have played their part in sustaining, supporting and entertaining people throughout that time, from imaginative digital activities to hosting food banks. Now as we all contemplate reopening, we need to be part of the big social build back.  

So instead of just ‘Polka’ we’ve gone for ‘Polka Theatre’, saying it front and centre so that everyone knows that theatre is important, it is valued. But come through the doors and you’ll see that a theatre is more than just the sum of its performance spaces. Rather than hide our theatre-ness, we want to prove to our community that a theatre can do and mean more for them than just somewhere they come once or twice a year to see a show.  

Words matter. Theatre matters.