The huge influx of people into Australia during the 1850s, combined with the extraordinarily rapid growth in financial opportunities, resulted in both the building of bigger and better theatres, and the ability to attract overseas artists (sometimes actually stars) to these venues. There is no doubt that conditions away from the stage were often harsh, with long distances having to be endured, first in getting here, and then through the incessant travel required in order to tour the country. The financial rewards were obviously worth the trouble, on the other hand, as stars such as Anna Bishop (who was even shipwrecked at one stage prior to arriving in the country) and Catherine Hayes being two of the earliest imported musical stars to tour for Australian-based entrepreneurs.
The early to mid-1850s also saw the first touring US minstrel troupes arrive in the county. Among these were Blythe Waterland’s Serenaders (1850), the New York Serenaders, the New Orlean’s Sereanaders, Rainer’s Original Ethiopian Serenaders (1854) and the Backus Minstrels (1855-56). During this same period a number of local amateur minstrel companies began staging “Ethiopian” concerts.
Edward Deas-Thomson, New South Wales Colonial Secretary, 1837-1856.
As Colonial Secretary, he was responsible for licensing the performance of locally-written plays.