When Mayor Greg Brownless first arrived in Tauranga in 1986, he didn’t know many people. So, because he’d always had an interest in the stage, he thought he’d pop down to 16th Ave Theatre – known then as Repertory Theatre. He found them rehearsing for a play.
“They needed a chap to fill a last role so they asked me and that was my introduction to the stage,” chuckles Greg.
He’d discovered a great way to get to know people and clearly his enjoyment turned into a bit of a passion.
“Thereafter, for quite a few years, I did a couple of plays a year which mightn’t sound many but you normally rehearsed for two or three months, and then for the season performed for two or three weeks. So if you’re doing two plays a year that’s half the year gone.”
At the time Greg was teaching at Tauranga Boys’ College. The theatre produced the play ‘Noises Off’, and he found himself acting in it with a fellow teacher Wyn Phillips. The college’s principal Graham Young commented: “Wyn did an excellent job of playing Wyn and Greg did an excellent job of playing Greg”.
Greg remembers during the play having to take a tumble down the stairs of a two-storey set.
“It’s actually quite difficult to throw yourself down stairs. You almost need someone to give you a shove, and there’s always the ever-present chance of injury. Perhaps it wouldn’t be allowed today under New Zealand Occupational Health and Safety regulations.” In the play ‘No Sex Please, we’re British’ he had to dive through a servery and recalls not being able to bring himself to do it until the very last dress rehearsal.
“It was quite high and the hatch was open. It wasn’t landing that worried me, it was clipping myself as I went through.” This budding stuntman had six mattresses waiting on the other side.
He went on to become president of the society from 1994-1997 and left his teaching role to establish his funeral directing business. During theatre rehearsals he occasionally had to go out if a family called him.
“Once or twice some of the actors at rehearsals used to see a fairly non-descript hearse parked outside and wondered if I would last through that rehearsal without getting called away.”
However, Greg managed to have a back-up for when he was performing.
“‘Noises Off’ is one of my favourites. I was in that play twice. First of all I played the young guy and then they did it again about 15 years later and I wasn’t allowed to play the young guy anymore. If they did it again I’d love to do it.”
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