There are many ways to write history; at Queen Street's Q Theatre, they've put it on the walls.

The theatre celebrates its fifth birthday this evening and corridor walls which snake through the building's ground floor have become an ever-evolving "autograph book" that would make a collector of celebrity signatures green with envy.

Ignoring the real estate refrain to leave white walls alone - "think of the re-sale value" - thousands of actors, comedians, dancers, singers, musicians and backstage teams have signed them.

The 34.8m long wall(s) are now a who's who of the New Zealand entertainment industry, dating back to the $22 million theatre's opening. Some have left just a name; others have crafted striking drawings - there's a brass band player from the North Shore Brass Band; a sultry showgirl from the Diamond Showgirls; a native bird in full flight from actor Rima Te Wiata and, from Auckland Theatre Company's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a cheeky canine.

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The celebrity signings started on the 2011 night Q opened its doors. There were performances and skits throughout the building; in one, actor Bruce Hopkins, star of The Lord of the Rings films, pretended he was at international fan forums signing autographs. He used part of a wall to scrawl his signature and the autograph wall idea was born.

That wall was part of the Pidgeon Building, built in the 1920s as a showroom and warehouse for the No Deposit Piano company. Before it morphed into Q Theatre, the building was the headquarters of Pidgeon Tyre Distributors, the Auckland Citizens Advice Bureau and the Wallace Art Collection.

It took years of fundraising, lobbying and promoting the project before Q went ahead. Now, as the theatre prepares to write the next chapter in its story, Q's chief executive James Wilson has spoken of the importance of the wall.

"If you're a performer in the dressing rooms or the green room, and you are dealing with first night nerves, you can come and read the names and the messages, and see all the people who have gone before you and we say to everyone, 'these are the artists whose spirits are here to hold you'."

Wilson says Q's first five years have exceeded all expectations. Last year, around 90,000 people attended a show or event there and that demand has led to Q developing more performance spaces.

It originally included the 460 seat Rangatira theatre and 120 seat Loft studio. Loft was to be mainly for functions and occasional shows, but demand led to it being used regularly for performances. A downstairs rehearsal room was also turned into a pop-up theatre, Vault, seating about 70 people, and there are plans to add a fourth space with seating for around 50.

The next five years will be about building on its successful foundations. Auckland Theatre Company opens its ASB Waterfront Theatre this month, but Wilson says even without ATC, Q has a full programme for the next 15 months.

"Q was never meant to be a base for one company, but having ATC here [it staged two - three shows a year at Q] has been invaluable because they've put on high-quality work and helped us to build our brand.

"When we took about the performing arts, we talk about'ecology' where constant growth occurs - you might learn your craft at the Basement, come to Loft at Q for a return season, then move to the main stages and beyond."

Wilson says Auckland venues are working closely together to ensure healthy development continues.

"I think you just have to look around to see all that has happened in the last five years to see the arts are alive and well in Auckland. Q opened around the same time as Auckland Art Gallery unveiled its renovations; Silo Park and the Wynyard Quarter started around the same time. There's been great change and it's been great for this city."

What: Q Theatre's fifth birthday bash
Where & when: Q Theatre, tonight from 7pm