Written by Kerrie Alexander
It was nine years ago that Trish Milne become part of the Brolga Theatre volunteer family and what an incredible journey it has been.
The 75-year-old Maryborough resident is more than at home working in and around the stage, props, the Box Office and auditorium getting to see some of the best performers in the world.
It has been very much part of her life since retiring.
Trish’s first time in the spotlight was as baby Jesus alongside her family in a Christmas performance at their local church in Manchester, and there’s been many, many other performances over the years.
“I remember the Christmases; the fetes, fairs, concerts and performing ‘I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus,” Trish said with a laugh.
Trish’s faith has played a big part in her life’s journey which led her to become a Chaplain at St Stephen’s Hospital and Maryborough Correctional Centre.
However, between work, raising two children and being a long-time volunteer for Nursing Mothers, Schools P&C Assoc and Joey Scouts, all roads have always led back to the performing arts.
Whether that has been poetry and performances with the Maryborough Choral Society or reciting her grandfather’s monologues at church events, the stage is where Trish feels alive.
Since becoming a volunteer at the Brolga Theatre, she has appeared in countless productions (playing the role of the ageing PL Travers at Mary Poppins Festivals and Story Bank), Anzac Day, Under the Banyan Tree (literally in Queen’s Park), Witches Abroad, Wind in the Willows, My Fair Lady and a cameo role in Mary Poppins the Musical.
“I just love being on stage,” Trish said.
“However, the performing arts is about much more than getting out there having fun and entertaining!
“It’s there to tell somebody’s aspect of a truth or a view, imagination in a story that’s going to educate, inspire or thrill.
“Some of the performers who come to the Brolga would have their audience dancing on the stairs if they were allowed to… such is the energy created or the memories recalled.
“Other times you can hear a pin drop. It’s wonderful.”
After making the move to the Heritage City in 1986, Trish was very dismayed by the lack of equipment and resources for the performing arts sector.
“When I came in ’86, I saw a few performances in the Town Hall and coming from Newcastle upon Tyne Theatre roots, the facilities were so woefully inadequate.
“But knowing that Maryborough needed something, in 1999 there was talk of the Brolga being built and the response of the community was amazing!
“So, they put their money where their mouth was and built this amazing place.”
The magnificent Brolga Theatre opened its doors to a new world and new level of entertainment in 2000.
“Now we have this wonderful state-of-the-art regional facility.”
Trish recalls many wonderful performances since then; Comedians, Pop and Country, Opera and Ballet, Tribute Bands and sell outs for Celtic Thunder, The Ten Tenors, Guy Sebastian, Petula Clark, Bluey and the Wiggles.
However, one of the most memorable events was the world premiere screening of Saving Mr Banks.
“With the permission of Disney and PL Travers Trust (through the work of the Proud Marys), the screening was quite a scoop!”
The Brolga Theatre is now the premier entertainment and conference venue on the Fraser Coast and the volunteers play an important and integral role in offering the best possible experiences for performers and guests.
The theatre plays host to everything from national and international performers to community theatre groups, many school functions, awards, talent shows, eisteddfods, conferences, meetings, expos and even funerals and weddings.
Trish is one of about 70 volunteers who work as Door Keepers or Ushers, welcoming and assisting guests as Foyer Attendants, working as Coffee Bar or Liquor Bar Servers or assisting in the Box Office with ticket sales and administrative activities.
The volunteers collectively gave almost 6000 hours last year.
Trish can spend anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a week covering any one of these roles and was even delightedly charged with conducting backstage theatre tours.
All new volunteers are inducted and orientated by Brolga Theatre staff and initially paired with experienced volunteer in a buddy system to ensure they become confident and competent in their roles.
Trish said the Brolga team are her second family.
“Everyone here is just so warm and welcoming, and everyone wants you to feel comfortable in your role and appreciated.
“You can volunteer when it suits you; during the day, evening or weekends and you can always so ‘no’ so you can keep a good volunteer-family life balance.
“Like many Organisations the Brolga couldn’t afford to run as effectively and efficiently as it does without its volunteers.
“They need at least 15 people for most performances. An enterprise like this needs volunteers and volunteers need to be needed; and isn’t that lovely match.”
Another key part to Trish’s volunteer role was being on the committee of Friends of the Brolga, charged with helping to raise funds for equipment and special projects.
There’s been many Melbourne Cup Day fundraisers, raffles, recycling cans and bottles and collection of annual membership fees to pay for various pieces of vital theatre equipment.
Some of the biggest purchases have been a grand piano, electronic frontage signage, stage dance matting and digital drums.
During Covid another one of those items purchased was a live streaming outfit used by the schools at their talent shows.
“The Friends bought the equipment during Covid so that the students could still perform on stage, being Covid safe without an audience.
“It was streamed to parents and other performances were also screened to aged care facilities.
“There is always a huge sense of community here at the Brolga.”
A visit to the Brolga Theatre is a must this year with plenty of incredible shows already set to entertain including the Crucible – NT Live, Anh Do -The Happiest Refuge Live, Leaving Jackson: (The Johnny Cash and June Carter Show), and so much more.
Visit brolga.ourfrasercoast.com.au to find out more.
If you would like more information about becoming a Friend of the Brolga or a volunteer, please contact the Box Office Admin on 41226050 or ask for their info pack.