Sydney New Theatre is one of Australia's oldest theatre companies in continuous production, despite having no ongoing funding and relying for its survival on the work of volunteers. It began life during the Depression as the Sydney Workers’ Art Club (WAC).
Its first known address is 273 Pitt Street where a small clubroom was opened in August 1932. Offered were lectures, music recitals, art classes and exhibitions, plus tuition in Russian, French and German.
By October the club had moved to 36 Pitt Street, premises formerly occupied by the Australian Seamen’s Union.
In April 1935 the Workers’ Theatre Movement in England became the New Theatre League and a year later the WAC, its dramatic section now the club’s most popular activity, followed suit. (Its parallel in the USA was the New Theatre Movement.)
In 1943 the New Theatre League (NTL) shifted to 167 Castlereagh Street, the building's owner the Grand United Order of Oddfellows.
In 1954 what was now New Theatre played at 60 Sussex Street under the auspices of the Cultural Committee of the Waterside Workers’ Federation.
In 1963 “The New” moved to St Peters Lane and ten years later into its own building at 542 King Street Newtown.
Sydney New Theatre is the sole survivor of similar groups which operated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle and Lithgow. At Easter 1939 Sydney played host to the first New Theatre League Conference (attended by Melbourne and Newcastle). In the 1930s the organisation was affiliated with New Theatre USA, the British Drama League (BDL), the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), the Australian Youth Council, the Central Cultural Council of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and 15 trade unions.