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At the National Institute of Dramatic Art Graduation Ceremony, held on Sunday 18 March, new theatre was honoured for its important and unique place in the history of theatre in Sydney and Australia over the past 75 years.
In front of the Federal Minister for Arts and Sport, Senator The Hon. George Brandis SC, distinguished guests and an audience of several hundred people saw NIDA’s Head of Acting, Aubrey Mellor, salute new theatre and present its President, Rosane McNamara, with a plaque ‘Honouring new theatre’s contribution to the performing arts’.
new theatre celebrates its 75th birthday this year – in company with two other ‘cultural icons’: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the ABC – and the recognition by NIDA of new theatre’s often-flamboyant history is a fitting tribute to the unique role played by the company since its formation during the depths of the Great Depression in 1932 under the banner ‘Art is a Weapon’.
Over seven decades, new theatre has held true to its belief in the power of theatre as a vehicle for social and political change, often in the face of forceful opposition from government, big business and the law.
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, new theatre members were targeted by ASIO for ‘suspected Communist activities’; new theatre members performed down mines and on the docks in support of striking workers; for over 20 years new theatre led the fight against stage censorship, culminating in the historic production of the banned play America Hurrah in 1969; in the past 10 years it has mounted productions as part of the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival; plus the company regularly presents acerbic political cabarets, and holds concerts to raise money for important community causes including Sudanese refugees living in Sydney and humanitarian aid initiatives in the wake of the recent conflict in Lebanon.
Continuing the new theatre tradition is the current production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, arguably one of the greatest political plays ever written. It’s only a frighteningly small step from the Salem witch-hunts to McCarthyism to the Bush Neo-Cons. The Crucible plays Thursday – Sunday until 14 April.
Full details of the 75th anniversary program can be seen on the website: www.newtheatre.org.au.
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