Person - Stan Polonsky

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STANISH POLONSKY (1920 - 2012)

Of interest to ASIO, usually know as Stanislav, Stanley or Stan and his last name often spelt “Polonski”, he was born on 11 December 1920 at Broken Hill to a Moscow-born mother and a Minsk-born father. After travelling around the NSW and Victorian countryside with his family he left school at 14 to become a fitter and turner at the Eveleigh workshops Redfern. According to Oriel Gray he was quiet, slim, and a good actor; according to Marie Armstrong he was a good, gentle influence who taught her to say “film” not “fillum”. Tom Salisbury said he was quiet and sincere.

At New Theatre he met fellow performer Norma Frances Parsons (Junoesque and taller than him, loud, tactless with a temper but good-hearted) and the couple married in 1946. She’d been at East Sydney Tech in 1933 where, already an ambitious thespian, she was nicknamed “Greta Garbo”. One of her stock of radio and movie star impressions was used to effect on stage as a “hilarious” department store cleaner in Watch Your Step, a Taxation Musical and Dramatic Society production at the Conservatorium in 1939. During the Second World War Norma took NTL acting classes with Will Lee but never accepted his discipline. She and Stan took a Negro serviceman Sergeant Dean to the Hotel Australia where nobody served them. Norma confronted the waiter and swept out, her companions in tow. Postwar she was reputed to have been a member of a theatre troupe playing to BCOF forces in Japan.

In 1944 Norma directed a Workshop of William Saroyan's Hullo Out There. In 1946, while taking a dressmaking course at East Sydney Tech, she got good acting notices for Tartuffe, Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry (directed by Stan) and The Bells Are Ringing. In 1949 she acted in Birthday of a Miner and directed The Lion on the Square. In 1957 she conducted acting classes, and in 1958 she directed The Crucible in which Stan assisted and played Reverend Parris. Because Norma talked so much, rehearsals were long and exhausting but the show did terrific business.

ASIO in 1958 described Norma as "an excellent test pilot for a broom factory", heavily made up, a flamboyant dresser, a virago when opposed always striking poses and adopting attitudes, incapable of debating quietly but always declaiming. The agent claimed that there was a picture in the NT dressing room at Castlereagh Street inscribed “Parsons nose/knows”.

After 1959 Norma devoted her energies to her Studio 60 at Potts Point. She was to have played the title role in Mother Courage in 1966 but had trouble taking direction and was replaced by Patti Asange.

In 1950 the Polonskys went to live in Europe where Stan worked in theatre and for an art supplies company. In June 1951 NT’s 19th birthday party raised £15 towards sending Stan Polonsky to the Berlin Youth Festival to direct Rocket Range. This didn’t happen because, according to Norma, the Programme Committee thought the play too left-wing. Norma studied Brecht at the Berliner Ensemble. Some key theatre members were dubious about the wisdom of sending them money. In England in 1952 Stan got a stage management job with touring Arts Council Repertory, and Norma work as a dictation typist with the BBC’s News Division, using a reference given by Graeme Stewart as acting NT Secretary stating that she’d been a NTL receptionist/stenographer 1937-49.

When she returned to Sydney in 1954 Norma swept into New Theatre wearing a hat which she removed and out fell a cascade of pearls which she’d smuggled through Customs. Norma Polonsky died in 1996. A member of the Union Of Australian Women, she bequeathed money to the organisation for a writing of its history.

Stan directed and acted in a great many plays at New Theatre over the period 1938 (when he acted in Love on the Dole) to 1972 (when he acted in Brian Syron’s production of The Seagull). Other acting roles included parts in Rehearsal, Plant in the Sun, Distant Point, Sabotage, the title role in Lawson, The Little Foxes, The Eve of St Mark, A Physician in Spite of Himself, The Bells are Ringing, Of Mice and Men and The Shepherd and the Hunter. Stan directed Rocket Range, Sons of the South, Six Men of Dorset and Birthday of a Miner. After returning from Europe in 1954 he and Norma acted in The Good Soldier Schweik 1956 and, as Norma and Stanley Paul, in Nekrassov 1957. Stan played Wacka in The One Day of the Year 1964. In 1945 he also directed a Eugene O’Neill one acter as a Workshop and The Valiant.

Stan in 1944 taught acting at the NTL, delivered a guerrilla oath at a pageant in Martin Place in 1945, and acted with the Mosman Theatre for Children. He set up a picture framing business at Edgecliff and after Norma’s death moved to Narooma where the couple had honeymooned.

Stan Polonsky, who claimed kinship with the poet Count Yakov Polonsky, died on 11 June 2012 and was buried at Bodalla with his companion Anayana who had died in 2004.

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