The 1990s - People and Projects

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Competition with other companies for performance rights of left-wing plays continued into the 1990s. NT actors and directors also worked regularly at other venues: the Zenith at Chatswood, Iron Cove Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, Belvoir Downstairs, Voices in Dickson Street, Harold Park Hotel, Shakespeare by the Sea, and the Genesians in Kent Street.

The decade saw more productions of Shakespeare and Australian works. A world premiere in 1994 was Alan Kelley’s Portrait of An Artist, an account of the controversy surrounding the awarding of the 1943 Archibald Prize to William Dobell for his painting of fellow artist Joshua Smith.

Maintenance on the King Street building and changing fire regulations were a constant financial drain. Fundraising kept the New afloat, particularly activities organised by Sandra Campbell: raffles, jumble sales, picnics, fashion parades, harbour cruises, theatre parties, restaurant get-togethers. Marie Armstrong’s dinner/dance at City Tattersalls (no denim, no thongs) pulled a good crowd.

The decade saw the deaths of key NT members: NT Secretary Miriam Hampson; wigmaker Elsie Dayne; Heinz Richard Harant, founder of the Ngunnagan social club at the YMCA and the UNSW Alumni Association; director Colin Kenny survived by his partner and helper on productions Frank Crocombe; designer Rod Shaw whose publishing house Edwards and Shaw had printed the original Penguin edition of the banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover; director and performer Patrick Barnett; director and actor Peter Douglas; director Brian Syron; star of Taggart Mark McManus; Len Grant signwriter and actor; actor John Hargreaves; actor and historian Paul Herlinger; photographer and lighting designer John van Loendersloot in a hang-gliding accident; actor and wigmaker Edie McLaren; Treasurer Bruce Hawkins; Vice President and heavy smoker Grace Grant of lung cancer; and actor and director Alan Docker.

In 1995 a party was held in the theatre for Mona Brand’s 80th birthday and the launch of her autobiography Enough Blue Sky. Mona wrote a letter of thanks: “It was good to feel New Theatre’s long history of mateship still alive and well”. Mateship was demonstrated the next year when money from a Cherry Orchard performance was donated to James Warner after his costume hire rooms were gutted by fire.

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