History of the New Theatre
Over 70 Years of continuous production!

History of the New Theatre

Newtown Premises, 1998Adapted from The New Years 1932 - The Plays, People and Events of Six Decades of Sydney's Radical New Theatre

New Theatre was founded in 1932 and is now the oldest continually producing theatre company in New South Wales.

The late 1920s and much of the 1930s, were years of acute financial depression for Australia and America. The long dole queues were common, as were evictions of families unable to pay the rent for sub-standard houses. Hope, for the majority of would-be wage earners was at a minimum. It was against this background, that the New Theatre movement was born in America. Its earliest productions were agit prop (agitational propaganda) sketches. Following the American trend, amateur Workers' Theatre groups sprang up in several Australian Cities.

As was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of 6th August 1932: The Sydney Workers' Art Club was established in temporary premises at 233 Pitt Street, "...(A Club) has been established with the object of bringing within reach of the working classes various advantages in the way of lectures, musical recitals, art classes, and the exhibition of pictures."

Soon after the theatre moved to new premises at 36 Pitt Street, above a wholesale grocery firm, these premises were formerly occupied by the Australian Seamen's Union.

In 1936 the Sydney and Melbourne groups adopted new names - Sydney's New Theatre League, was shortened to New Theatre in 1945.

In 1945, the Sydney New Theatre won the City of Sydney Eisteddford One Act Play Competition with Waiting for Lefty - written to raise funds for the New York taxi drivers' strike fund, it went onto become a Broadway hit, playing coast to coast in twenty cities.The bar in the foyer of the Theatre, 1998.

In six decades Sydney New Theatre has mounted over 400 productions, mostly works of universally accepted writers including Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekhov, Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Bernard Shaw,Tom Stoppard, Dario Fo, Max Frisch and Bertolt Brecht. Australian writers include David Williamson, Mona Brand, Nick Enright, Alex Buzo, Oriel Gray, Dymphna Cusack, Betty Roland, Patrick White, Stephen Sewell, Peter Kenna and Ray Lawler.

In 1973, needing more space for major productions, workshop acting classes, children's theatre and street theatre rehearsals, the Theatre moved to its present King Street location.

New Theatre continues to play a leading role in encouraging Australian Playrights, by producing classic Australian works and conducting playreadings of new works.

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