Chris Tippett, MEC Theatre Manger

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Chris Tippett is the newly appointed Theatre Manager at the Manning Entertainment Centre, and we spoke to him recently about the role, his background and his vision for the MEC. 

Hi Chris. How long have you lived in the area, and what appeals most to you about living here?

I moved to the Manning in around 2001 after finishing uni to be closer to family and quickly fell for the mild weather and beautiful surrounds … you can be at the beach or in the bush within 20 minutes’ drive from Taree, and that really appealed to me. I grew up in Tamworth and had spent years living out in Western NSW as far as Cobar, so the ocean and forests were a welcome change. My parents have been here since the mid ’90s, and our family has been in the area since the ’60s, so it sure feels like home!

What’s your background with the Council … What has led to your appointment as Theatre Manager of the MEC?  

I have always had an interest in music and live performance and when I moved to town, I spent a couple of years busking, working in bands and pubs, playing at private functions, weddings and parties … It’s not an easy way to make a living, and I take my hat off to those local individuals who have been successful at this. 

In 2003, a job for Theatre Technician at Manning Entertainment Centre was advertised in the Times and having a background in music, I applied and was successful in attaining the position. It’s difficult to describe how significant this event was for me, but it totally changed the direction of my life and opened my eyes to a world of entertainment that I’d had very little to do with previously. 

I can say that there has never been a dull moment, and that’s what has kept me here as my career has developed from Theatre Technician to Production Manager in 2011 and now Theatre Manager in 2019. Australian Regional Theatres are amazing places, and I consider myself so incredibly fortunate to be able to manage a venue like the MEC.

What do you love most about being part of the team at the Manning Entertainment Centre?

I love the diversity of the work … Our activities are guided by our calendar of events, and this is never constant. We are always working towards the next show, while at the same time planning for shows that will be presented up to two years later. I find this process so exciting, and it’s extremely rewarding when a big show sells out.

There is one thing that I truly do love about the MEC, and that is the fact that it’s a team … The MEC has 15 staff, and we’re supported by a volunteer group of close to 50 ushers and bartenders. Without the dedication and hard work of all these people, the MEC would not be as successful as it is today.

What’s been the most amazing production you have been involved in, and why?

There have been so many – too many to single out just one, and each for their own reason … For me, shows that come to mind are: Grease, my first major musical on sound; Cats, my first theatrical lighting design; Mary Poppins, the first production at the MEC where the fly tower was used to fly people …all these shows were produced by Taree Arts Council and were all hugely successful. Then there’s the work with comedians like Carl Barron and Tim Minchin, who are just as funny off stage as they are on, or working with the incredibly skilled production staff of Bell Shakespeare company and Circus Oz. There is one artist though, I will never forget working with – and that’s Sir David Helfgott – he has the most amazing presence and talent. Everyone needs to go see him play.

What are your goals and vision for the MEC?

The MEC is already an outstanding venue; it’s only a couple years ago we were voted in the top four venues in Australia by our peers, which is just amazing! So, I want the team to continue to keep up the good work. We have started this by coining a “Why” statement for the MEC – we foster a creative performing arts program to entertain and inspire our community … We will honour this statement by facilitating the development of local performing arts and assisting local users, by continuing to make the MEC accessible to touring companies, as well as creating our own season of events through entrepreneurial means.

We have two major projects underway, with the help of the State Government’s Regional Cultural Fund. The first involves upgrading the main auditorium sound system, and the second project is the construction of a versatile flat floor Studio Theatre Space behind the MEC. It’s a 2.6 million dollar project that will totally change our business and allow us to host a variety of events not suited to the main auditorium. Current plans include an auditorium of a minimum 400 metres square, retractable seating bank for 150 – 200 people, versatile theatrical lighting system and commercial kitchen for running dinner and show performances. The project has been years in the making, and we know this new venue will be well used by our community. A big thank you to the estate of Beryl June Flett for donating $1,000,000 to assist the project!

What’s coming up at the MEC in the near future?

We have an amazing season of events in 2019! In the very near future we see the return of the ever popular Boys in the Band with Jukebox Revolution – their last
concert was a sell out, so book now to ensure your seats. 

We also have an amazing show for kids and families, with the 360 ALLSTARS, which we could not have brought to town without the assistance of Manning Valley Neighbourhood Centre and the Hub at Bushland. The show is described as an urban circus, with a live looping band of beats, percussion and rap, world champion break dancers, basket ball trickster, BMX flat landing and Roue Cyr artists – you will not forget this performance! 

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra are back, led by
virtuoso guitarist Slava Grigorian, and for the kids we have Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts, produced by the incredibly talented and emerging
theatre company Shake’n’Stir. This show is so well presented – every child in the region should see it! 

If you want to join our Friends of the MEC program, you’ll receive a range of benefits, including early bird offers, complimentary drinks and discounts on selected shows throughout the year!

Dates and ticket information are on our website: www.theMEC.com.au – the Box Office is open Tuesday to Friday between 10am and 1pm; you can visit or call on 6592 5466. If you’re in Forster, you can purchase tickets to our events at the Stockland Information Counter. We are on Facebook @manningentcent and instagram
#manningentcent, or review us on TripAdvisor. 

Thanks Chris.

Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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