After 42 years of voluntary service, Newcastle theatre stalwart Ken Longworth is exiting stage left.
Ken will step back from his judging duties for CONDA - the City of Newcastle Drama Association.
He had been on the judging panel since the CONDA awards began in 1979, as part of the 50th birthday celebrations for the Civic Theatre.
Ken, along with other theatre reviewers in the city, was invited to judge 37 productions that year.
These days, Ken and his fellow CONDA judges critique around 70 productions a year across the Lower Hunter.
In 2017, Ken was awarded an OAM for his contribution to the theatre industry, following a nomination by CONDA.
Ken said he was proud to have been associated with the longest continually running theatre awards in Australia, since their inception.
"It has been an immense pleasure to watch the Newcastle theatre industry flourish," he said.
"Over those four-plus decades, I have seen a lot of changes, but the one constant has been the passion and dedication of those involved in the industry - professional and amateur practitioners alike.
"The quality and wide range of local productions continues to go from strength-to-strength and is supported by an ever-growing number of theatre goers."
Ken was particularly chuffed about the "robust nature of youth theatre in our city".
"We are blessed with a number of top-quality drama schools, passing on their love for theatre to an increasing number of young drama and musical theatre devotees," he said.
"The industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Theatre was the first to shut down and will be among the last to reopen in lockdowns.
"Our local theatre companies have shown their steely determination to push through and continue to deliver much-craved live performance when and where they can," Ken said.
"I stand aside from my CONDA judging duties with mixed feelings. It has been an intrinsic part of my life for so many years, but I know it is now time for me to step back and let the next generation take the reins. I do so, knowing the awards are in the very best of hands."
He thanked all those in the local theatre industry who had supported him.
"I look forward to seeing you in a theatre foyer soon," he said.
CONDA president Shane Bransdon said Ken was "an icon of the Newcastle theatre industry".
"We are all looking forward to celebrating Ken at the annual CONDA Awards ceremony at the Civic Theatre on Saturday, December 11."
A fellow named Ken retired after years as a theatre awards judge. Props to him.
People wonder how I smuggle chocolate into the theatre, so I don't have to buy the expensive Jaffas. Let's just say, I have a few Twix up my sleeve.
A set designer got sacked for not producing anything. He didn't make a scene.
An actor fell through the floor during a performance. It's just a stage he's going through.
A theatre production about English language puns has been dubbed a play on words.
A theatre lighting technician has been praised for his work. It was spot on.