Clair Williams says the community theatre on De Vitre Street in Lambton is always a hive of activity.
"Rehearsals for the show about to begin, rehearsals for the next show after that, a play reading, a set being built..."
But now the president of the Newcastle Theatre Company is saying the building is at risk of closure due to a $100,000 fire safety compliance bill the company cannot afford.
Newcastle Theatre Company is run by volunteers and has been performing since 1957. The association has over 200 members. It owns the theatre where it stages eight productions a year.
Ms Williams said changes to the company's executive last year, including her own appointment as president and other changes, contributed to the group failing to submit an annual fire safety report to the City of Newcastle, for which the company has been fined $4000. Ms Williams engaged a fire safety inspector at the end of last year to complete the mandatory check.
"We've been passing our fire certificate requirement every year without an issue, until last year. It was, 'tick, tick, tick, fail'. The regulations have changed."
Ms Williams said the company had been advised that, due to amendments to statewide fire safety regulations, the theatre's fire safety system was no longer compliant. The company needs to install a smoke exhaust system, potentially requiring an additional thousands of dollars for structural work.
"The arrangements we have for removing smoke from the auditorium and stage in the event of a fire are inadequate. Seven years in a new theatre and suddenly we're not okay to the tune of $206,000," she said. "We think we can bring that down to $100,000 by cutting down the size of our stage by one metre, which is pretty severe."
Ms Williams said the company decided to "go public" about the problem because it was now faced with costs it could not manage.
"It's just got to the point where we have to be clear. We're on month-by-month extensions from council. It's absolutely terrifying when we've got shows in production, we have tickets sold for the rest of the year and 80 subscribers.
"We believe the theatre is safe and well-managed but we're not arguing with the fire regulations. We have a responsibility to meet requirements."
She said she was "hopeful" the company could raise the money and complete the works by the end of August. Its upcoming production, Postcards from Kafka, written by a local playwright, is premiering on the theatre's stage next Friday.
"If people want to help us, the first thing they can do is come and see our plays," Ms Williams said.