World Theatre Day was celebrated for the first time on March 27th, 1962, coinciding with the opening of the “Theatre of Nations” season in Paris and has been celebrated every year since then.

 

History of Australian Theatre

In Australia, the corroboree’s of Indigenous cultures included many theatrical aspects including dance, music and costumes. Stories have been passed down from generation to generation integrating the themes and stories of the past and present.

The first production post European settlement was Recruiting Officer, written by George Farquhar. It was performed in 1789. Australia’s oldest theatre, Theatre Royal in Hobart, Tasmania opened in 1837 and is the oldest still operating theatre in the country. The oldest theatre on the mainland, The Queen’s Theatre in Adelaide was opened in 1841.

Theatre Royal, Hobart

 

Australian Theatre in 1962

In 1962, the Australian theatre community saw:

*The founding of The Australian Ballet Company, their first performance was November 2nd of the same year and was of Swan Lake

*Productions of Bodytown (Albert Hall, Yarralumla- Canberra), Don’t Tell Helena (Russel Street Theatre- Melbourne), Not with Yours Truly (Emerald Hill Theatre- South Melbourne), Round the Reef (Roxy Theatre- Newcastle), The Sentimental Bloke (Tivoli Theatre, Adelaide, Her Majesty’s Theatre- Brisbane, Theatre Royal- Sydney & His Majesty’s Theatre- Auckland, NZ), Tropicana (Merrilands Hall- Atherton) & A Wish is a Dream (Phillip Theatre, Sydney)

Swan Lake by The Australian Ballet Company

 

Australian Theatre Today

The fondest memories I have include becoming excited when the lights dim as the orchestra begins to play the overture and the feeling of being drawn into the show through the artist’s emotions and actions. Incorporating the goals of World Theatre Day (which can be found at https://www.world-theatre-day.org/ ), I invited members of the theatre community (those who responded include directors, performers, musicians, writers and audience members) to contribute one word that came to mind when asked what do you love about theatre? These responses were then formulated into a word cloud.

What does theatre mean to us?

 

Words such as community, connection, passion, family, joy and magic were repeated frequently. Due to the current crisis, many in the Australian theatre industry have lost the employment which brings both audiences and themselves that magic and togetherness. The feelings expressed within the cloud have been replaced with fear, frustration and anxiety. Breadwinners have been forced to recreate their business models, many are lining up for financial support and all hope that the Australian Government hear their plea.

When Australian communities were torn apart by fires earlier this year, theatre performers stood up and donated their time freely to raise thousands of dollars for strangers. Who is standing up and enabling theatre communities to  not only promote and perform their work but to pay bills and buy food?

Cast members of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory watching rehearsals from the wings

 

What Can I Do?

The love, excitement and hope that theatre brings is in jeopardy. Whilst organisations such as the MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) are fighting the Federal Government for targeted and specific relief that will rescue the arts and cultural industries impacted by Corona Virus, there is something that individual theatre lovers can do to ensure our history is ongoing.

Many theatre companies have released updates in regards to what is happening with their shows. While ticket selling organisations and theatres will offer refunds, if you find yourself able to please consider donating that money back to the local theatre so that people can enjoy theatre in all its forms when the curtain rises again.

If you need to talk to someone during this time organisations including Lifeline are available. For those in the industry; you can contact the MEAA or The Arts Wellbeing Collective at https://www.artswellbeingcollective.com.au/get-help/

 

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