Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New England Australia - Preliminary thoughts on history of Theatre in New England

I have so far written two stories on this blog about playwrights with New England connections.

The first story followed the death of Alex Buzo and looked at his life from a personal perspective. The second story looked in part at the life of Bob Herbert.

In that story I said:

"Bob's story reminds me that there is still no history, or at least one that I am aware of, of theatre in New England. This is another significant gap in New England historiography, one that I will write about in another post to try to explain why I think it is important."

A little later I followed that post up with a story on Personal Reflections, my personal blog, celebrating the 75th birthday of Brian Barnes. Together with Harold Bennett, Brian founded the New England Theatre Centre, the first attempt that I am aware of to establish a fully professional theatre company in regional Australia.

Those who have read the story on Brian Barnes will see that I have now managed to upload one photograph, the cover of his 1968 performance of Under Milkwood in Bermuda. I had seen Brian do this earlier in Armidale.

The limited material I have seen on the history of theatre in Australia, I say limited because this is an area that I have yet to look at in any detail, has a Sydney/Melbourne focus. This is understandable simply because the relatively large population of those centres made them more attractive to performance and performers. However, it is not the end of the story.

We know that there was a thirst for entertainment, we also know that:

  • circuses toured New England regularly from at least the early 1870's
  • there were local theatricals (Harry Clay, for example, apparently began his theatre career with performances in the Singleton area) from fairly early times, but we do not know when or where they began, how they spread
  • individual companies of players such as Clay's toured regional NSW
  • there is a postive but still ill-defined relationship between the spread of schools and schooling and then later of tertiary institutions and the development of theatre in New England
  • there are also almost certainly yet to be defined linkages between broader social and economic trends and changes in theatre in New England.

Just as we have found with New England writers, I suspect that there is a fascinating story here waiting to be told.

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