Elise Rohde doesn't remember the first time she was on stage.

But by looking at old photos, she knows she was about 4 years old and played a role in the production Madame Butterfly.

"I was a little boy," Rohde laughs. "I've been involved in theatre since I was born."

Her mum and grandmother were both involved in theatre so it was inevitable that Rohde would fall in love with the arts from a young age.

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The media specialist has been the president of the Tauranga Musical Theatre Society for the past five years and the treasurer of Tauranga Dance Incorporated for just as long.

Both roles are rewarding but are voluntary so Rohde fits them around her busy life.

Involving youth in local theatre is a topic close to Rohde's heart.

She says theatre gives children a chance to succeed and they learn important things like discipline.

It is an important priority to invest in the future of the society, through youth theatre.

"You've got to have a plan. We invest time in the youth and that will give the society longevity," she says.

Every year the society holds a production fully organised and run by young people and, for the past nine years, Rohde had been a mentor to many.

"It's brilliant, some of the kids come into it with no idea of what theatre entails. They go through the ups and downs until they get to opening night where they can say 'Hey look what I have created'."

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Rohde says for some teenagers youth theatre is an opportunity to really get outside of their comfort zone and work alongside their peers, something that is not always easy.

Watching teenagers go on to create careers in the arts is "humbling" for Rohde.

"A lot of our kids who went through the youth programme have gone on to be technicians, and many of them come back and want to help the society.

"That's what you want ideally, you want them to outgrow you," she says.

She has watched interest in youth theatre grow in the past five years and there are currently about 40 members under the age of 25.

The biggest goal Rohde has for the society is to keep "pushing the boundaries".

The latest show, Catch Me If You Can, is the society's best-selling show to date, something Rohde is proud of.

"People want to see different things. There's only so many times you can watch The Sound of Music," she says.

Rohde is not disheartened by people who say there is no culture in Tauranga.

"Look around, there are three theatres right in the city and our teenagers are dying for it.
Tauranga is thriving."