Person - Bob Bell

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ROBERT BERNARD BELL

A NT member ca 1949 – 69, Bob Bell served on production, finance, premises and building committees, and was President 1965. He acted in a string of NT productions, and is credited with making the theatre's newsletter Spotlight! a regular publication.

"Gobsmacked" by Of Mice and Men, Bob joined NT, a move which he said changed his life. While studying as a cadet radio engineer at Tech, he went straight to the theatre after finishing work and "practically lived there". His first roles were in Workshops Waiting for Lefty , Galsworthy's The Little Man (in which he was impressive, despite not knowing his lines) and Synge's Riders to the Sea. His first mainstage show was in a crowd scene in The Lion on the Square 1949.

Bob then acted in Flowers for the Living 1949, the revue Pot of Message 1949, Had We But World Enough 1950, We, The People 1950, the revue Press the Point 1950, Lysistrata 1950, Thirty Pieces of Silver 1951, Longitude 49 1951, and a rehearsed reading of Frank Hardy's The Nail on the Wall 1951. From 1956-9 he was working in Melbourne where he acted in Melbourne New Theatre’s The Biggest Thief in Town 1959. Back in Sydney he was in All My Sons 1960, designed the set and was reviewed as outstanding as Mitchem in The Long and the Short and the Tall 1962, played the Negro chauffeur in A Raisin in the Sun 1962, Iago in Othello 1964 and the lead Negro in Purlie Victorious 1964. He contributed a script to the revue You’ve never had it so good 1965, acted in On Stage Vietnam 1967 and America Hurrah! 1968 (extending his coughing scene because of prolonged audience clapping). He directed Here Under Heaven 1961. A CPA member for a time with an ASIO file, Bob used the acting pseudonym Robert Bruning fearing the connection might affect his business as an insurance consultant.

In 1951 he married Joan Myra Guilfoyle who had been persuaded by her hairdresser John Armstrong to join NT. Joan was in the cast of the Workshops Riders to the Sea and The Bear and made costumes for the latter and other NT shows. Their two children were in the cast of the children's show Mumba Jumba and the Bunyip 1968. In 2007 Bob described the Newtown NT premises as "shabby" and urged "Get rid of those bloody seats!" (Since then the building has undergone a transformation, including the restoration of the auditorium chairs recycled from Walter Burley Griffin’s Capitol Theatre in Melbourne.)

Born on 27 May 1928 at Dongarra WA, the eldest of three children of a respectable Catholic family, Bob joined the Eureka Youth League after leaving school. In 1945, like his friends he feared he wouldn’t be able to have children if the atom bomb fell.



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