Person - Betty Milliss

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English- born Betty Cole, ex-member of the Luton Co-operative Dramatic Society, arrived in Sydney on 11 February 1952 and wanted to join the Mosman Dramatic Society but it had disbanded. Hearing about NT from a neighbour, Betty joined in May 1952 at 167 Castlereagh Street where she was greeted by Assistant Secretary Peter Francis. Betty took classes in mime and movement with Peggy Tanner and Margaret Barr ("a marvellous person to work with") and dated Neville Swanson. The first NT play she saw was Moliere's School for Wives. Although she thought theatre talk on form and content was too arty for her she stuck it out.

In August 1952 Betty had her first role, in a Workshop of Box and Cox directed by Laurie Booth, and in the same year her first part in a full production, as Liesl in The Germans. As the mayor’s wife in An Inspector General, her second play, she was reviewed as having two voices, one of them piercing. After a bout of chickenpox she played a small role “with tremendous feeling” in Strangers in the Land 1953, was in the chorus of the first Reedy River 1953, directed Box and Cox as a Workshop in 1954, was in Out Of Commission 1955 and The Good Soldier Schweik 1956. For Contact street theatre she performed Butcher’s Hook and Housing Blues:

There’s been a housing shortage since 1944 / The Government keeps saying there isn’t any more

They’re building plenty of houses in Sydney town today / But oh! Such fancy prices we can’t afford to pay.

Betty took over a part in Pacific Paradise and during its run ~ on 14 January 1956 ~ married the show’s designer David Milliss (“an indescribable young man”). They attended the 1956 NT Easter conference in Sydney.

In 1957 Betty was in the revue TV Or Not TV and Johnny Noble. She played Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible 1958, took over the role of Mrs Wrexall from Evelyn Docker in No Strings Attached 1958, was in the 1959 revue Fission Chips, The Night of the Ding Dong 1959, Sandhog 1962, An Enemy of the People 1962, The World of Sholem Aleichem 1964, a revival of The Good Soldier Schweik 1967, War And Peace 1968, The Physicists 1970, Trumpets and Drums 1971, The Disorderly Women 1971, Dance Exploration 1973, The Ballad of Angels' Alley 1973, The Rose Tattoo 1974, A Physician in Spite of Himself 1974, a convincing 91-year-old in Eileen Allison’s wheelchair in And A Happy New Year 1976, a splendid support to Marty O’Neill in Enter a Free Man 1977, Enemies 1978, good in Richard’s Cork Leg 1979, Oh, What a Lovely War, Mate 1980, The Workroom 1981, Jigsaws 1994, and replaced Janet Foye in The Hang of the Gaol 1984.

Described by ASIO as energetic and forceful, Betty was NT Vice President 1964, an office helper 1975, Assistant Secretary 1979, and Administrator 1983- 91. She organised balls and other social activities. The Millisses were generous financial supporters of NT and held many functions in their large Victorian house adjacent to MLC Burwood . Betty died on 4 October 2021.

See also David Milliss.

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