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180419 SN 0167 525x700Long-serving member of the Ashburton Variety Theatre, Dianne Favel, with her merit award from Musical Theatre New Zealand. Photo Sue NewmanWhen it comes to musical theatre, there’s not much Dianne Favel hasn’t done – except appear on stage.

She joined the organisation in 1997 as a waitress for a theatre restaurant style show, took over the role of treasurer the following year, picked up ticketing, booking and bar duties and followed those up with a long stint as production manager and stage manager.

Along the way she did a turn as vice-president and president and finally, a couple of years ago, decided it was time to bow out and leave those jobs to someone else.

When she attended this year’s musical theatre conference in Auckland, Dianne joined in the mood of the first evening, dressing up in a gold and blue theme – blue overalls, a yellow wig and a blue hat.

The last thing she imagined happening was to be called on stage to receive an award.

“I was absolutely blown away. I thought I’d never done enough to get one of those. I cried. I was so surprised, absolutely stunned really,” she said.

And it appeared Dianne was the only one not in the know as son David and daughter Michelle were on hand to celebrate with their mother.

“The committee knew I was getting this and now I know why they tried so hard to talk me out of dressing like that,” she said.

She might have “retired from active duty” with Variety Theatre, but said she has a store of amazing memories from those years.

“I guess I really became involved because David was in shows and that sparked my interest. That interest turned to taking on the treasurer’s role and that morphed into additional jobs until she stepped up the ladder to become production manager and then stage manager.

She loved every minute of those side stage jobs, but the responsibility was pretty heavy. One wrong cue and the results could be dire, she said.

“If you don’t call it, it doesn’t happen, call it too soon and you muck everything up, but I loved it, you feel part of every show, every minute really.”

As part of the Variety Theatre crew Dianne said she’s seen some amazing productions, rating Blood Brothers as number one.

“I love the music from it. I’ve seen it four times both as a musical and a play. Les Mis, however, is the one that means a lot more to me because I did it with Robert Young and he taught me so much.”

Over the years she said she has worked with several great directors, including David Williams and Regan Jackson, but rates Young at the top.

“He was a hard taskmaster, but what he taught me stuck with me forever.”

As well as great directors, Dianne said it was a privilege to watch great home-grown local talent such as Tainui Kuru and Jane Leonard star on stage in Ashburton and then go on to make their way in the musical theatre world further afield.

She managed her last show in 2015 and last year she decided to sign off from the Variety Theatre committee.

“I had so many fun times during the shows, there was great camaraderie and I’ve made some great friendships around New Zealand through going to conferences,” she said.

“It was a big decision, but I’d got to the point where it was time to go but I’ll still support them, I just love it but it’s great now to sit in the audience and enjoy a show.”

Like all good troopers, however, Dianne has not completely retired from the theatre, she still works as an administrator for Musical Theatre New Zealand’s zone four.

Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 23 April 2019

200419 HM 0205 Rugby Ash Col vs STAC 700x467Mid Canterbury Combined took on St Andrew’s College in Methven on Saturday. Photo supplied,They stuck with them for the first half, but in the end the St Andrew’s College 1st XV proved too slick for Mid Canterbury Combined in Methven on Saturday.

It was Mid Canterbury Combined’s last pre-season hit-out before the Crusaders region’s secondary school rugby competition – the UC Championship – gets under way and while the scoreboard didn’t make good reading at 62-7, it was far from all bad in the eyes of the side’s coaches.

Brent Middleton, Andrew Morgan and Warren Donald are charged with taking the side, which is a combination of Mid Canterbury’s two high schools – Ashburton College and Mount Hutt College – through this season, and they’re happy with where their young charges are at.

Mid Canterbury Combined has played three pre-season games and while they lost to St Andrew’s and Lincoln, they beat Waitaki Boys’ High School in Oamaru last weekend and Middleton said that result was a huge confidence boost. Heading to the Methven Domain to play St Andrew’s College on Saturday, Middleton said they knew they were in for a right challenge and that’s what they got.

But they managed to stick with the Christchurch side in the first half though, only trailing 19-7.

While it blew out a bit in the second half, Middleton said his side let in a few soft tries that a couple of basic, easy-to-fix, defensive manoeuvres would have stopped. So his players know what they need to work on.

“It was probably good to come up against quality opposition, to know what we are going to be facing,” Middleton said.

“As much as you could look at it and say, gee, they got beaten 62-7, at this stage with what they showed in the first half and how they are working as a unit, I think they are already well ahead of where they were at this point last season.”

Mid Canterbury Combined didn’t win a game last season, but did stay with some much bigger schools for large chunks of games – like they did against St Andrew’s College on Saturday.

Through all of last season and on Saturday, Mid Canterbury’s players kept their heads held high and didn’t give up, and their coaching team know that they’ll continue like that through the 2019 season – never giving up.

Mid Canterbury Combined’s players will have this weekend off before the UC Championships get under way on May 5, with a home game against Marlborough Boys’ High School awaiting the Mid Canterbury side in week one.

By Erin Tasker © The Ashburton Guardian - 23 April 2019

Swimmers Hannah King Bree Middleton 514x700Ashburton swimmers Hannah King (AshColl) and Bree Middleton ( Mt. Hutt) with the medals they won at the national age group champs.Ashburton swimming coach Shane Jones couldn’t have asked for much more from his young charges at the 2019 National Age Group Swimming Championships

The four young swimmers – Bree Middleton, Blake Farr, Hannah King and Mitchell Veix – came home with six medals all up, nearly 100 per cent personal best times, and the valuable experience of top-level racing under their belts.

Jones said the event in Wellington was a good stepping stone and a great confidence booster for the older of the four, 15-year-olds Farr and Middleton, in particular as they looked to push forward to higher honours.

For the younger two, 13-year-olds Veix and King, it was their first time at a national competition and they produced great results, including a silver medal for King.

The national age groups were held at the Wellington Aquatic Centre over five days and Middleton was the last of the Ashburton contingent to hit the water on Saturday in the 400m freestyle final, where she swam a six second personal best (PB) to finish second to the winner, who broke the longest standing New Zealand record set by Rebecca Perrott in 1976.

The 42-year record breaking swim proved just too slick, but for Middleton it was still a strong end to a top meet, with five medals all up.

She made finals in all of her events and set new long course personal best times across the board. She won silver in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle, and gold in 1500m age group and open freestyle, unofficially breaking the Canterbury record in the event which had had been set in 2011.

She also finished fifth in the 50m freestyle.

Farr was flying the flag for the Ashburton Swim Team on the final day too, lining up for the 100m freestyle final and swimming a 0.5 second personal best to finish fifth.

He picked up top 10 placings in all events, finishing eighth in the 400m freestyle, ninth in the 50m freestyle, seventh in the 200m freestyle, and ninth in the 1500m freestyle, and sixth in the 100m freestyle.

King swam a three second long course personal best in the 400m individual medley heats, and when she returned to the pool for the finals later that same day she swam another new personal best, by nine seconds, and improved her ranking by one to finish with the silver medal.

King also finished 10th with a personal best swim in the 200m breaststroke, and in the 800m freestyle she was eighth with a three second personal best.

Veix swam a personal best in the 50m butterfly on his way to a 12th place finish, and in the 200m butterfly he finished 11th.

In the 100m butterfly he produced a three second long course PB only to just miss out on the final, being the first reserve.

Erin Tasker © The Ashburton Guardian - 22 April 2019