Ita leads Blue Mountains thespian cause

Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose at the Katoomba Theatre Company fundraiser. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose at the Katoomba Theatre Company fundraiser. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

A photo of a naked Jack Thompson posing as Australia’s first male centrefold and Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose were highlights of a fundraising dinner for the new Katoomba Theatre Company (KTC) on August 2, 2013.

The media doyenne and businesswoman was in the Blue Mountains officially as guest of honour at a KTC fundraising dinner at The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba, at the invitation of her Blue Mountains cousin and company co-founder Dr Larry Buttrose and his partner Belle Buttrose.

More than $15,000 was raised at the event emceed by radio presenter Nick Bennett.

Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose with a copy of the 1972 Cleo centrefold of Jack Thompson auctioned at the Katoomba Theatre Company fundraiser. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose with a copy of the 1972 Cleo centrefold of Jack Thompson auctioned at the Katoomba Theatre Company fundraiser. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Much of the dosh was raised from an auction run by Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) chairman Randall Walker, who squeezed $800 out of the crowd for a canvas print copy of Australia’s first male centrefold, the famous 1972 Cleo spread featuring Thompson, who is also a patron of KTC along with Ms Buttrose and film director Bruce Beresford.

The auction also included items from The Carrington Hotel, Mountain Heritage Resort & Spa and Lilianfels Blue Mountains, Bygone Beautys and artworks donated by Falls Gallery and Lost Bear Gallery.

“You may have thought that you have done your bit by buying a $135 ticket,’’ Mr Walker said.

“That absolutely does not rate. We need to enrich the community in the arts and culture …but it takes money.’’

Ms Buttrose entertained the 200-strong crowd with the story of how the photo came about before tempting bidders with a close-up view of the image while roaming the room holding it.

Ita Buttrose performs a scene from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with Katoomba Theatre Company members (l) Chris Gabardi and (r) Tiriel Mora. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Ita Buttrose performs a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Katoomba Theatre Company members (l) Chris Gabardi and (r) Tiriel Mora. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

She further regaled the throng by performing in a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with KTC’s Tiriel Mora (best known from The Castle), and answered questions from guests.

Her celebrity status elevated the cause of KTC, which has been a four-year journey by Dr Larry and Belle Buttrose for the community, Blue Mountains Council and others to recognise the need for and then support a community theatre for the most famous town in the Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles pledged the council support: “It’s long overdue for arts and culture in the mountains to take its place at the fore. We should have had a theatre in Katoomba decades ago.’’

Katoomba Theatre Company co-founder Belle Buttrose. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Katoomba Theatre Company co-founder Belle Buttrose. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Belle Buttrose outlined the “journey’’ to establish KTC and said respected Blue Mountains-based director, actor and screenwriter Helmut Bakaitis would run the company’s youth
theatre initiative, a partnership with Katoomba High School.

Ita and Dr Larry Buttrose said theatres were “the heart’’ of any community, providing an outlet for expression and education, fostered positive ethics and morals and were major contributors to the local economy.

The 200-seat theatre would also be an outlet for Australian playwrights, with Dr Buttrose pledging an aspirational goal that half the works to be staged by KTC would be Australian content and guaranteeing readings of unsolicited works.

KTC would stage three to four productions a year and the space at other times would presumably be used by other  theatre companies and travelling productions, as well as having education and youth programs, he said.

Katoomba Theatre Company co-founder Dr Larry Buttrose. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Katoomba Theatre Company co-founder Dr Larry Buttrose. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The future of KTC was promising, with patron Beresford sending a congratulatory message to Dr Buttrose for the occasion and asking to be invited to direct a play in Katoomba.

Ms Buttrose’ visit to the Blue Mountains also included a trip to Scenic World, home of the world’s steepest railway; announcing an Aboriginal boys’ dance program at The Gully site at Katoomba; a visit to Blue Mountains Cultural Centre; and adding her moniker to the list of celebrities to have visited The Paragon at Katoomba.

BMLOT chairman Randall Walker said: “We were thrilled and honoured to share so many exciting programs and experiences with Ita during her visit to the Blue Mountains during the weekend.

“The Blue Mountains has many firsts – the first hotel (The Carrington) in the first tourist destination in Australia being among them. On Friday night we combined that with the first Australian male centrefold, first editor of Cleo and the first woman editor of an Australian metropolitan newspaper.’’

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