10 February 2023

Pirates steal the show as SoACT launches into a rollicking 2023 season

| Chris Roe
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Director Leigh Ladd will launch the Riverina Opera and Light Opera Company with Pirates of Penzance in April 2023. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga’s iconic School Of Arts Community Theatre (SoACT) is back for another packed year of local productions and is expanding the program in an exciting new direction.

“We’ve launched our Riverina Opera and Light Opera Company (ROLOC),” explained vice president Fay Waters.

“And after two decades of not performing in the Civic Theatre, we’re returning as part of the 60th anniversary of Civic Theatre, which we contributed quite a substantial amount to the building of.”

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The 2023 season offers a diverse range of shows including the February Fun Days, the Sixties Singing Sensations cabaret, an Agatha Christie play and the popular Ten by 10 Playfest.

The February Fun Days’ ‘Variety Fare’ kick off this weekend with a selection of 10-minute performances and local performer Craig Dixon will make his directing debut with the one-act play Garbage by Australian writer Helen Wyngard.


One-act play Garbage sees three homeless drifters telling their stories. Photo: Chris Roe.

To celebrate 60 years of the Civic Theatre, the newly formed ROLOC will make its swashbuckling debut in April with The Pirates of Penzance.

“We thought it would be a wonderful way to launch ROLOC and do a Gilbert and Sullivan,” said Fay explaining that a mix of music and theatre has always been a part of SoACT’s 164-year history.

“We had a music club as part of the original format of the Wagga School of Arts and we used to bring people like John Sutherland to Wagga.”

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It was the arrival of experienced opera performer and director Leigh Ladd a decade ago that began the push to revive SoACT’s classical tradition.

“He mooted the idea at a committee meeting and it was taken on board and it’s been lying dormant until this year when we decided to absolutely put up the umbrella,” Fay said.

“Leigh had been performing in Sydney in Gilbert and Sullivan, so it’s his forte if you like.

“He’s a very highly accredited human being and intensely passionate about music.”

Fay Waters

SoACT marketing manager and veteran performer Fay Waters says it will be a big year on stage. Photo: Chris Roe.

Leigh is a senior lecturer in veterinary physiology at Charles Sturt University and says he stumbled into performing in Sydney during a tough time.

“I became involved in theatre after one of those life-changing events to distract myself and I actually went on to do about 80 shows in 10 years,” Leigh said.

“I did all sorts of things; I started on stage but I also stage managed, did prop manufacturing, set design, and a whole bunch of stuff and of course directing.”

Leigh’s interest in singing drew him to Gilbert and Sullivan and he explained that he picked up a mentor after an early performance of Pirates of Penzance.

“I think she saw that production and took pity on the audience and decided to help me and in the end, she gave me seven years of free opera lessons,” he said with a chuckle.

Leigh performed with Australia’s longest-standing opera company, Rockdale Opera, and began directing musicals with several theatre groups in Sydney.

Since moving to Wagga, he says it’s been a rewarding experience to be involved with SoACT.

“I like the fact that they have a great deal of expertise. I like the fact they’ve been around for a long time and I like the fact that they’re very open to all sorts of theatre,” he said adding that Wagga is rich in local talent.

“Wagga is full of so many amazing people and Wagga people don’t realise that there’s such a lot of incredible talent,” he said.

“ROLOC is actually about trying to bring that talent together so we want to work with the Con (Riverina Conservatorium of Music) and to get everyone together so you can get the best of what Wagga can do!”

SoACT’s 2023 season is officially underway and you can learn more and book tickets here.

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