Brisbane Arts Theatre
|Address||210 Petrie Terrace
Theatre company history
Brisbane Arts Theatre was founded in 1936 as Brisbane Amateur Theatre by Jean Trundle and Vic Hardgraves. The company's name was changed in 1947. Its early seasons up until the early 1960s consisted of five productions, each with three-night seasons in venues such as All Saint's Hall, Princess Theatre, Theatre Royal and Albert Hall. It also presented 12 to 14 performances of an annual junior Shakespeare play and three one act plays throughout its season at various venues, including the Brisbane branch of the Royal Over-Seas League.
Brisbane Arts Theatre's first production in its new venue on Petrie Terrace was The Multi-Coloured Umbrella by Armidale playwright Barbara Mary Vernon, which opened on 16 September 1961. Its first full season in its new home included nine plays of up to 20 performances each.
During the rebuilding of the venue (see below) between 1964 and 1965, the company persisted with its seasons off site. Following the completion of the rebuilt venue, ten plays per season were performed, each consisting of 19 performances over a five-week duration. In 1965, an annual children's theatre season was added with the first production featuring Carol Burns as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.
The company was funded only by box office revenue until government funding began in the form of a small annual Queensland state government grant in 1969, which ceased in the 1990s under the Goss Labor government. It has since again operated solely on performance revenue.
In recent years the theatre's annual seasons have consisted of five to seven productions each from its mainhouse and children's theatre divisions. Its recent high grossing productions have included the stage debuts of three plays based on novels by John Birmingham, adapted by Simon Bedak: He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco and How to Be a Man; and productions of Avenue Q in 2012 and in 2014.
Brisbane Arts Theatre was the first theatre company in Brisbane to operate its own theatre premises. The venue is located at 210 Petrie Terrace, in the suburb of Petrie Terrace. It seats 151 people in the stalls and gallery combined and features a small courtyard and a bar.
The property, formerly Dan's, a second-hand shop, was purchased in June 1959 for £6,000 and redeveloped as a theatre. Initially reported to seat 220, it opened in September 1961 with a single-level, raked 144-seat auditorium and a 10ft-deep stage. The first floor accommodated the costume department and office. The theatre was officially opened by Premier of Queensland Frank Nicklin on 22 September.
At around 3 am on 31 May 1964, the theatre was heavily damaged by fire, caused by an electrical fault in the toilet block. Upon initial assessment of the damage, the theatre director and insurance representatives agreed that the building could be repaired within a matter of weeks, however, smouldering materials ignited a second blaze at 8.30am, which resulted in extensive damage throughout. £12,000 was loaned by the Commonwealth Trading Bank for the rebuilding of the theatre based on a new design by the initial architect, John Dalton. It included the addition of a dress circle, increased stalls capacity, a 25ft deep stage and two dressing rooms under the stage. The theatre reopened on 25 June 1965, the reconstruction totalling £20,000.
In the late 1960s the adjoining cottage – a deceased estate – was purchased for £6,000 and later, in the early 1970s, the two story building at 222 Petrie Terrace was added to the complex. The cottage, at number 206, was renamed after Cor Boogaart, a set constructionist for the theatre for 27 years. The property at number 222 housed the theatre's wardrobe department and rehearsal space until its sale in 2011. Cor Boogart Cottage, having previously been used as a rehearsal venue, now houses the wardrobe division and a rehearsal space and set construction workshop downstairs. The two rehearsal venues were renovated between 1976 and 1978 at the same time as the construction of the theatre's current office and bar. The Cor Boogaart Cottage was again refurbished following the sale of 222 in May 2011.
A number of notable Australian actors have performed at Brisbane Arts Theatre, including Carol Burns, Michael Caton, Barry Otto, Judith McGrath, Bunny Brooke, Jennifer Flowers, John Stanton, Penny Downie, and Kate Wilson. Other notable performers include Ian Thomson, the late Wayne Goss, who would later become Premier of Queensland (ironically his government would cut an annual grant to the company), and Roslyn Atkinson, who would be the judge in the trial of Daniel Morcombe's killer.
- Arts Theatre (Brisbane, Qld.), [Arts Theatre [Brisbane] : Program File], retrieved 2 July 2012
- Fryer Library Theatre Programs – Arts Theatre [1951-] http://www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer/theatre_programs/arts_theatre.pdf
- Brisbane Arts Theatre (1987). The First Fifty Years 1936-1986. ISBN 0731610350.