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Theatre productions could be hampered if repairs are not made to the 100-year-old stage inside Masterton's town hall.
Masterton District Council has put off work on the stage for years but has now been warned its rigging is too frail to reliably suspend lights, weights and props.
The council will decide next month whether to spend $120,000 to replace the rope with wire - but that cost could only be the tip of the iceberg.
Another $240,000 could be needed to replace ageing winches, wooden beams and curtains; replacements which have also been put off for years.
Theatre and dance director Sharon Stevens-Cottle said she needed the rigging for performances and would be hindered until it was replaced.
But the rigging was the bare minimum of repairs and replacements to a venue she described as "fairly embarrassing" at times.
"The foot-pedal fell off the piano at the Liberace performance this year. He was a well-known guy and entertainer and it was awful."
The council had put off upgrades because it thought auditoriums that were under construction at Rathkeale and Wairarapa College could be used for future theatre productions.
Ms Stevens-Cottle said that, while they were nice venues, she could not use those auditoriums because the rigging did not meet her needs and the schools could not offer a week of uninterrupted use.
"It's beautiful school facilities but when school exams are on it's an exam area. We do our production at the end of the year - and can we go in there? No."
Geraldine Inder, another theatre and dance director, said she could remember better days in the 60 years she had been using the stage.
She had occasionally been tempted to mention the $1000 in sound equipment and $1000 in lighting she had had to pay for herself because the council's facilities were not up to scratch.
"I have just been invited up to another dancing school in New Plymouth and it was just amazing, all the lighting that's in their theatre. We really haven't got a theatre here."
However, she said, she understood Masterton was a small town and the stage was only used by a small group of people.
Community services manager Jan Gerritsen said she was investigating how the replacement of the ropes could fit in with other upgrades of the stage.
While the council had budgeted $120,000 for the rope replacement, it would need to find grants for the other work.
Ms Gerritsen said the rope replacement was foremost and she had been warned by a consultant the current rigging could pose a danger if it was used to hoist lights and scenery.
Chief executive Wes ten Hove said for safety reasons no one would be allowed to use the rigging system until the rope was replaced.
An opera performance is scheduled in March and could be hindered if the council has not replaced the ropes before then.