The Taranaki theatre community has lost a valued and much loved member. Sadly Derek Warren Treeby passed away on Tuesday 31 March following a short illness.
Derek was widely known throughout Taranaki by theatre groups and the theatre going public alike. He was held in high regard in all circles where his theatre skills and knowledge were considered legendary.
Derek’s early days in theatre in New Plymouth saw him appearing onstage for NP Repertory Society and the Operatic Society. After a time, he moved from the stage to the Directors chair where he discovered his true vocation. He quickly established a reputation for tackling challenging plays and directing thought provoking productions that were ahead of their time. Along with tackling these challenging scripts, he was also equally happy directing comedies, pantomimes and musicals.
Over the years he directed productions not only in New Plymouth but also in Inglewood, Stratford, Waitara and Mokau (where the town turned up to watch). In the 70’s when dinner theatre was relatively unknown, Derek was an early pioneer of this form of entertainment in New Plymouth when he directed a NP Repertory production of the musical “The Boyfriend” at the Devon Hotel. Pantomimes were also a favourite and he directed many a successful Christmas season such as “Mother Goose” for Little Theatre at the then Opera House. As a Director, Derek had wonderful creative insight and imagination. He would read a script as many of us would read a book. In many ways he was hardwired for theatre. He understood scripts, characters, subtexts and plotlines where at times others of us were wondering what it was all about.
During his early days in theatre in New Plymouth, Derek worked in the Manchester department at the Farmers Co-op on Devon Street. Following his time at Farmers Co-op, Derek became a drama tutor at the Performing Arts Company where he provided invaluable guidance as a mentor to young adults starting out on their journey in theatre and in life, establishing many long-lasting friendships.
Derek was always very supportive, and he gained much enjoyment from watching others grow in the world of theatre, attending any play or production he could get to.
Always to the point, he would provide direct valuable feedback and leave it up to you to find the truth in what he said. To this point he was a mentor to many, myself included. He freely gave of his time and energy to mentor those wanting to extend their knowledge and experience.
In 2007, Derek calculated that over the course of his involvement in theatre he had been involved in over 133 productions either onstage or as Director. Such was his enthusiasm, Derek directed plays into his 80’s, with his final production at Little Theatre being “All My Sons” in 2013. His being awarded Life Memberships at both NP Little Theatre and the NP Repertory Society showed this commitment, contribution and value to the New Plymouth theatre community.
Many of us owe much to Derek for his friendship, support and all that he taught us over the years. I’m sure I speak for the theatre community when I say that we and the theatre going public are so much richer for having Derek in our lives.
Patron – New Plymouth Little Theatre