Up until the arrival of the theatrical entrepreneurs in Australia, the risk for most public performances of music and theatre was undertaken by the performers themselves. These entertainments were invariably presented in hotels, or in rooms or halls attached to them, as well as in the few theatres that existed. The latter venues were invariably little less than public halls, purpose built to cater for all manner of social activities, from dances to concerts. Prior to the establishment of professional theatre and music activity in the country, these entertainment facilities were often cheaply built and poorly designed for the purposes of audiences and performers alike. As the 1840s rolled on some actors began to move towards entrepreneurship, whether as as producers, lessees and/or managers – including, for example, George Coppin, John Lazar and Annie Clark.
1848 saw possibly the first ever minstrel-style entertainment being presented to the Australian public, this being a short performance put on as part of a benefit at Hobart’s Albert Hall on 7 August. Advertising indicates that one of the acts, the Ethiopian Serenaders, introduced the American melodies that had previously been “received in London with the most enthusiastic applause” (Colonial Times 4 Aug. 1848, 1). The following year the Four Ethiopian Serenaders (possibly the same performers) appeared at Queen’s Theatre, Melbourne, in July. Although not a minstrel show, the song and dance act presented did comprise blackface renditions of the songs “Dance the Boatman,” “Dance the Buffalo Gals” and “My Skiff is by de Shore.”