Historical Insights


The Academy Literature and Drama Website: “Theatres”. This database comprising more than 400 entries on prominent authors, playwrights, theatres and theatre history, was constructed by Dr Simon Ryan and Dr Delyse Ryan for the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (IATL) at the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane. The “Theatres” section includes summaries of over 70 theatres in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource. AustLit aims to be the definitive virtual research environment and information resource for Australian literary, print, and narrative culture. Its Australian Popular Theatre (APT) subset was compiled by Dr Clay Djubal between 2006 and 2009 and focuses on writers and other key practitioners working in popular culture entertainments such as revue, revusical, minstrelsy, pantomime, burlesque and musical comedy. The APT comprises more than 4,500 works entries (productions, reviews, criticism etc) and over 600 agent entries.

NB 1: AustLit is a subscription service, and hence only limited access to the site is available to the general public. Full free access is available, however, through most Australian universities and state libraries, as well as many public libraries. See your local institution for further details.
NB 2: To find out more about the APT subset click on this link <<Australian Popular Theatre>>
NB 3: Almost all of the APT entries (for pre-1935 works and agents) are now out of date, a result of funding for the subset having ended in early-2009. Nevertheless, the AustLit database is still the world’s foremost relational database in the humanities area. Its advance search option is an especially useful tool for exploring creative and industrial relationships between people, organisations and works.

AusStage. The audacious aim* of this event-orientated database is to provide an accessible online resource for researching live performance in Australia. This means not only “any” type of live performance, but Australian productions of internationally-written works, too. Although the database comprises more than 92,000 events (as of May 2017), this number also includes revivals. Unfortunately much of the database is currently skewed towards the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with minimal attention paid to entertainment forms such as revue (it has no revusical genre), burlesque and vaudeville staged during the Australian Variety Theatre Archive’s temporal parameters (ca. 1840s-1935).

* Especially given the unreliable nature of long-term government arts funding. University and private sector disinterest in supporting ongoing (digital) arts research ventures with no profit or commercial potential also suggests that AusStage will struggle to survive, let alone map the history of Australian entertainment and arts events. The impact of investment malaise can be seen with AustLit. All its original university partners have either severed or severely reduced their commitments. AustLit has also received little or no Australian Research Council (ARC) funding since at least 2014. This has resulted not only in the decimation of its staff but also the loss of many decades worth of expertise. It is therefore questionable whether the database can continue to claim to be the “definitive virtual research environment and information resource” given that does not have enough people (with appropriate expertise and training) to keep up with current indexing – let alone maintain a retrospective indexing and updating program. This situation also means that it no longer has the capacity to respond to the huge number of errors that are now known to exist within the database – a consequence of the online explosion of previously unavailable resources (notably Trove). A similar scenario is currently affecting AusStage.
NB: AusStage’s pre-1930s popular culture theatrical entries  (with the possible exception of pantomime) appear to have been contributed by people with limited expertise in the field. In this respect there are many errors and much misleading information – including incorrect genre-assignation, authorship, and work titles. The primacy of an “event” over the “work,” means, too, that only revivals of works might be included, thereby providing a flawed historical account of some works (i.e. no indication of debut productions). See the Radio Girl (by Rex Shaw) for example. in this instance only the 1933 and 1934 revivals are currently entered even though the work premiered in 1926 and was given its first revival in 1927 (as per The Radio Girl entry in AVTA).

Stig R. Hokanson.  Stig Hokanson’s website is devoted to theatrical practitioners who were once members of the Brisbane chapter of the Freemasons (Thespian Lodge No 268 UGLQ). Quite a few of the entries are for people who were once involved in variety theatre. [sighted 9/05/2017]

Waverley Cemetery: Who’s Who Encore. Provides a glimpse into a forgotten world and recalls to centre stage famous people who are buried in this unique and iconic cemetery on top of the cliffs at Bronte in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. Many of the people included in this online publication were involved in variety theatre. [sighted 9/05/2017]

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Published on May 8, 2017 at 4:02 am  Comments Off on Historical Insights