Works chronologies are updated as new information is located. Please check the bottom of each entry for “Last Updated” details
The 1860s saw Australian theatre activity capitalising on the enormous influx of people into the country who looking for opportunities in the gold rush and who stayed. There was an increase in the number of minstrel companies coming over from America, or via tours of Europe, while stars of British and American legitimate theatre began arriving in greater numbers as the decade passed. The construction of new theatres in the capital cities and in regional towns also led to an increase in both entrepreneurism and locally-written works. While it would not be as distinctive as the 1870s there were nevertheless a number of key individuals who established themselves during this period. The influence of George Coppin and William Ackhurst, along with George Fawcett Rowe during the early years of the decade, also led to the gradual rise of Melbourne as Australia’s theatrical capital – a position it confirmed in the 1870s.
Key managers and aspiring entrepreneurs included James Simmons, Raphael Tolano, J. P. and Harriet Gordon Hyde, and the Empsons. It was also the decade which saw the rise of several influential scenic artists – notably W. J. Wilson and John Hennings (who both later turned to management). Actors like Henry Harwood and John Greville also established themselves during this period, with the latter two going on to form a partnership with Richard Stewart and George Coppin at Melbourne’s Theatre Royal in 1868.
Among the minstrel and burlesque companies to tour the country were: the San Francisco Minstrels and Sable Opera Troupe, Christy’s Minstrels, Campbell’s Minstrels, and Weston and Husey’s Minstrels. The 1860s also saw the emergence of W. Horace Bent, arguably Australia’s greatest minstrels endman and comic lecturer.