About the Venue:
The Empire Theatres is the largest performing arts precinct in regional Australia and boasts several performance and function spaces. Renowned for its classic art deco architecture, the heritage listed theatre is the jewel of the Darling Downs. It is wholly owned by Toowoomba Regional Council and managed on it’s behalf by Empire Theatres Pty Ltd.
Our Empire Theatre
Built in 1911, rebuilt in an art deco style in 1933 following a fire and finally restored and reopened in 1997, the Empire Theatre has served as an entertainment hub for Toowoomba and the surrounding areas for over 100 years, playing an integral part in the cultural development of the region. The heritage listed theatre is a building with rich history and fine architecture, including the grand proscenium arch, decorative sconces, original brick walls in the foyers and art-deco style lighting. With modern seating for 1565 people, the theatre continues to receive countless commendations from patrons and performers.
Since the official reopening of the main theatre, the Empire Theatres precinct has continued to grow and develop with the inclusion of three other venues, the Empire Theatre Studio, Empire Church Theatre and the Armitage Centre.
The Empire Theatre Studio, located directly behind the main stage is commonly used for small performances with an audience of up to 120, complements the use of the heritage listed Empire Church Theatre. Originally built in 1877, the Church Theatre now hosts a variety of performances including cabaret, comedy, fine music and jazz as well being a popular choice for weddings, receptions and private functions.
The newest addition to the Empire Theatres precinct, the Armitage Centre is a unique 350 seat ‘black box’ performance space and function venue with state of the art facilities including high quality technical equipment, retractable tiered seating and an attractive forecourt as well as impressive foyer and bar spaces. Since it’s opening in September 2014, the Armitage Centre has hosted a variety of performances, including film, drama, music and dance and easily transforms to host weddings and cocktail parties, business functions,or dinner receptions.
Empire Theatres Foundation
The Empire Theatres Foundation is a charitable trust which seeks to provide performing arts opportunities to further the cultural experiences and professional development of young people in the Toowoomba region. The patron of the Foundation is acclaimed stage and screen actor Geoffrey Rush, who first experienced live theatre at the Empire as a child growing up in Toowoomba.
Empire Theatre Projects Company
Formed in 2009 with the goal of providing outstanding arts experiences in southern regional Queensland, the Empire Theatre projects company is committed to delivering arts programs in our regional providing excellent education resources to schools in the region, producing contemporary new work and facilitating community based events.
Through Empire Youth Arts, the Projects Company offers workshops in Toowoomba and at regional centres including Dalby and the Lockyer Valley, holiday workshops, education resource programs and the elite youth performance program, IMPACT Ensemble.
Some of the performances produced by the Empire Theatre Projects Company include April’s Fool by David Burton, Cosi (2010), Secret Bridesmaid’s Business (2011), Female of the Species (2012), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (2013) and Michael Gow’s Away (2014), with each providing significant performance, creative and technical training opportunities to the community.
Friends of the Empire Theatre
The Empire Theatre has well-established volunteer organization, Friends of the Empire Theatre, the members of which support the theatre by providing assistance through fundraising activity and providing support via a volunteer workforce.
Launched in 2010, Empire Youth Arts aims to enrich and empower the young people of the Toowoomba region. Providing a variety of regular drama workshops, holiday workshops and elite performance program opportunities, Empire Youth Arts is an invaluable program to the young people of the Toowoomba community and beyond.
Empire Youth Arts also provides a number of classes outside Toowoomba, including term long classes, workshops, masterclasses and educational support, working in Dalby, Lockyer Valley, the Somerset Region, Mitchell, Miles, Charleville, Pittsworth and Crows Nest in the past few years.
Empire Youth Arts: A 10 Year Overview
In 2020, a report was commissioned to accompany the 10 year anniversary of the Empire Youth Arts initiatives housed at the Empire Theatres. The report provides significant insight and validation of the impact of Empire Youth Arts initiatives on the lives of emerging young regional theatre artists.
The report found that Empire Theatres is setting the standard for regional investment that champions and induces new, transformative theatre practice for young people.
The research found that Empire Youth Arts has created a regional youth arts identity, an ensemble community, and a unique culture-led teaching model that is imbedded in industry practice and creates a legacy for both the community and the participants involved.
This legacy is shown to build wellbeing and resilience, transferrable skills and a lifelong creative lifeline in the participants.
Recommendations to come out of the report include considerations for continued partnering locally across sectors and nationally within the youth arts industry, internal and external evaluation to help develop and promote the value of EYA and publishing opportunities for EYA script assets and further research/articles regarding pedagogical practice.
The research was launched on Friday 15th October 2021 at the opening night of the 18th IMPACT ensemble production – Off With Your Head.
The report gives Empire Theatres a base of evidence proving what was known anecdotally. This research will drive strategic program development of Empire Youth Arts and assist in securing ongoing financial and community support.