John Sumner (director)

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John Hackman Sumner, AO, CBE (27 May 1924 – 24 May 2013) was the founder and artistic director of Melbourne Theatre Company in Australia.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Sumner was born in England in 1924. At an early age he attended the London Opera School. He served in the British Merchant Navy in World War II before commencing his career in theatre in 1947 in Dundee as assistant stage manager. He later became stage director and manager with H. M. Tennent Theatres in the west end of London before moving to Australia in 1952.[1][2]

Career in Australia[edit]

In 1953, Sumner established the Union Theatre Repertory Company (UTRC), later becoming the Melbourne Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director until 1955.[2] After a short time in Sydney managing the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust he returned to Melbourne and resumed his role as artistic director in 1959, continuing until 1987.[2] He directed more than a hundred plays from Australia and overseas and established the MTC as a model for other state theatre companies.[2]

In 2009, the main performance space in the Melbourne Theatre Company's Southbank Theatre was named in his honour.[2][4]


Sumner died in Melbourne on 24 May 2013, at the age of 88. He was survived by two daughters, Alice and Victoria.[2] John also had a son, Justin, by his first wife, Karis Mond, granddaughter of the ICI founder Ludwig Mond, Lord Melchet. Justin Sumner currently lives in Cornwall.


  1. ^ a b "John Sumner AO CBE b.1924". Hall of Fame. Live Performance Australia. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "MTC Founder John Sumner Passes Away at 88". 24 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Hownslow, Thomas (25 May 2013). "Melbourne Theatre Company loses founder". The Age. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Sumner". Melbourne Theatre Company. Retrieved 25 May 2013.