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					Historical Overview of Theatre in
            Australia
       The Australian Continent
• modern, industrialized
  nation on largely
  unpopulated continent
• seven states, territories
• only island continent
• only continent to be
  occupied by single nation
• population hugs seaboard;
  interior is mostly desert
  (80% of country in arid or
  semiarid zones)
Australia and New Zealand
             Aboriginal Australia
• ancestors of the
  Aborigines arrived on the
  continent at least 65,000-
  70,000 years ago
• from South Indonesia
  during the last ice age
• over time, separated into
  distinct tribal groups with
  their own languages and
  traditions
• subsistence husbandry
    Kinship, Religion, and the Land
• over this long period, tribal lands were integrated into
  a complex set of religious beliefs and practices that
  governed all aspects of Aboriginal life
• believed that physical structure of tribal territory
  embodied ancient spiritual entities that preserved and
  protected the land and its people
• since the land was a physical expression of spirit
  ancestors, and the spirits were progenitors of the
  Aborigines, land and people were connected in
  mutually dependent relationship
• land central to sense of personal identity; myths of
  “Dreamtime”
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
European Exploration
          • Terra Australis Incognita
          • 17C Dutch exploration: in
            1642 Abel Tasman named
            Australia “New Holland”
          • initial reports unfavorable
          • 1770 James Cook annexed
            east coast territory on
            behalf of King George III
            of England, named it
            “New South Wales”
Convict Transportation 1788-1868
                • 1776 Britain’s North
                  American colonies
                  declared independence
                • Britain could no longer
                  send convicts to America
                • overflowing prisons
                • in the 1780s it was
                  suggested that Britain
                  could use New South
                  Wales as a prison
                • transportation for seven
                  years, 10 years, or life
      The Australian Penal Colony
• in January 1788 the first
  shipload of convicts
  arrived in Botany Bay
• founded settlement named
  Sydney
• life was very difficult for
  early convict settlers: soil
  infertile, food scarce,
  sickness rife
• eventually learned how to
  survive; convicts who
  finished their “lags”
  became free settlers
Colonial Expansion
         • Lachlan Macquarie
           became Governor of the
           colony in 1810
         • number of free settlers
           increased markedly
         • exploration inland
         • development of towns,
           roads, public buildings
         • pastoral wealth; gold
           discovered in 1850s
         • convict transportation
           ceased in 1868
      What about the Aborigines?
• 18C approx. 600,000 - one
  million Aborigines
• huge cultural gap between
  colonizers and colonized
• Aborigines considered to be
  “rural pests”
• opposing notions of land
  ownership and use: terra
  nullius
• two centuries of appalling
  economic and cultural
  disadvantage
The Stolen Generation
        • as a result of murder, dispossession,
          sickness, Aboriginal population
          plummeted
        • c.1900 Europeans assumed that
          Aborigines were dying out
        • non-full-blood children forcibly
          removed from families, placed in
          institutions to learn European values
          and trades
        • expected to breed with other “half-
          castes” or whites and ultimately
          eliminate the Aboriginal blood line
        • loss of identity, mistreatment
     History of Australian Theatre
         Convict Theatre 1788-1840
• convict theatre fueled by late-
  Georgian craze for amateur
  theatricals
• instigated by convicts
• first play = George Farquhar’s
  The Recruiting Officer, June 4
  1789
• 1796 = Sydney’s first theatre,
  managed by Robert Sidaway
• convict performances
  sustained until c.1840
        19C Colonial Theatre
• similar trends to other colonial settlements:
  melodrama, musicals, comedy, domestic
  drama, farces, and other “light theatre”
• bushranger plays
• literary-historical drama in verse, based on
  historical drama of the 18C (Addison,
  Racine), also Shakespeare; escapist
Towards an “Australian” Theatre
          1900-1950
• call for “indigenous” Australian drama
• influence of realism, and Independent
  Theatres overseas
• rise of repertory groups, “authors’ theatres,”
  e.g. Australian Theatre Society, Adelaide
  Repertory Theatre
• still characterized by amateurism, lacked
  widespread national support
        Postcolonial Influences
              Post-1950
• 1950s = theatre subsidization
• Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust
• Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1955) and the
  Australian audience
• new era of sustained professionalism in
  management, production, and acting associated
  with the Australian play
• out of this new creative environment = 1960s new
  dramatists, artists, experimenting with new forms
Aboriginal Theatre, 1970-2005
             • 1960s organized Aboriginal civil
               rights movement
             • 1971 Kevin Gilbert’s The Cherry
               Pickers performed
             • 1970s-80s collective initiatives;
               Black Theatre Groups
             • 1989 Bran Nue Dae = turning
               point in Aboriginal theatre
             • 1990s social, political change
             • more creative control, intense and
               high-profile activity; women
               writers; Indigenous Theatre
               Groups; writing as resistance, also
               reconciliation

				
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