Practitioners: Other [A-L]

Adams to Fitzgerald ……. p.1
Gavin to Lytton ……. p.2



(1872-1936) Librettist, dramatist, poet, journalist, novelist.

New Zealand journalist Arthur Adams collaborated with Alfred Hill on several cantatas and operettas around the turn of the century, including the pantomime Ali Baba (1898) and comic opera Tapu (1903). Between 1898 and 1900 he worked as J.C. Williamson’s literary secretary and over the next few decades wrote and staged a number of plays which had minor success in England and Australia. Adams returned to Australia in 1906, working for the Bulletin, the Lone Hand (1909-1911) and the Sun (Sydney). He also published novels and several collections of verse.



(ca. 1852-1900) Singer (baritone), actor, entertainer. [Born: Thomas Cadwallader Ambrose]

Largely known throughout Australasia as a serious (classical) singer and as a semi-regular member of the Royal Comic Opera Company for more ten years, Thomas Ambrose nevertheless sometimes performed in pantomime and on the variety stage. His name first appears in connection with several Melbourne music society’s during the early-to-mid-1880s. He made his debut with Williamson, Garner and Musgrove in 1887 and for several years was a member of the Elite Double Quartette (comprising fellow Royal Comic Opera Co singers). George Rignold then engaged him for several productions – notably during Maggie Moore’s Sydney season (1893) and for Jack the Giant Killer (1893/94). Ambrose also appeared in J.C. Williamson‘s Little Red Riding Hood in 1899. He died in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital on 30 November 1900 and was interred in Sydney’s Waverly Cemetery.

1. Ambrose’s early Melbourne career included performances with the Metropolitan Lierdertafel, Brighton Harmonic Society and Tonic So-Fa Choral Society. During his career he is billed as either as T. Ambrose or T.C. Ambrose.
2. His Royal Comic Opera Company engagements were during both the Williamson, Garner and Musgrove, and Williamson and Musgrove eras. For the latter firm he toured New Zealand (1890). He was also a member of the Gay Parisienne Company in 1897.
3. With the Elite Double Quartette, and later Excelsior Quintette, Ambrose performed in such venues as Kreitmayer’s Waxworks and Museum (Melbourne), the Bondi and Coogee aquariums (Sydney), the Queensport Aquarium and Zoo (Brisbane), and aboard a Hobart-based pleasure boat.
4. Aged only 48 at the time of his death, the cause presently unknown.



(1871-1936) Actor, dramatist, director, producer, manager, author.

Asche, Oscar [NLA]One of Australia’s most successful theatrical exports Oscar Asche established a reputation in Britain with several leading theatrical companies. He and his wife, Lily Brayton, later formed their own Shakespearian company, touring Australia twice (1909 and 1912). His greatest successes, however, were the “Eastern” extravaganzas Kismet (1911), Chu Chin Chow (1916) and Cairo (1920). Asche returned to Australia in 1921 to produce the latter musical, and after returning to England in 1924 appeared in several films, wrote two novels and produced a number of stage shows.



ayr-bill-tbt-9-aug-1928-19(ca. 1881-1950) Actor, theatre/tour manager, director/producer, company proprietor, entrepreneur, shopkeeper [Born William Henry Air]

At age twenty, Bill Ayr joined E.I. Cole’s Bohemian Dramatic Company as a juvenile actor and eventually became its lead actor, Cole’s son-in-law, and its manager/producer. Although he took a leave of absence in 1920 to oversee the FullersPalace Theatre (Melbourne) and later managed shows for the firm in New Zealand, Ayr continued to be associated with Cole’s Dramatic Players throughout the 1920s as performer, tour manager and general manager. In 1930 he switched its entertainment focus to musical comedy and four years later to variety (including vaudeville, revue/revusical and pantomime). When petrol rationing forced the company’s demise in late-1941, he settled permanently in Sydney as a shopkeeper. Ayr died at his home in Belmore on 5 July 1950.

1: Under Ayr’s leadership Cole’s Dramatic Players were also known as Bill Ayr’s Bush Players (1928), Cole’s Players (1929), Cole’s Musical Comedy and Dramatic Players (1929), and Cole’s Comedy Players (1930-1932). The company was primarily a tent show theatre operation.
2. Ayr claims that he worked for the Fullers for four years (“Days of Drama.” Recorder 14 July 1938, 4). Preliminary research indicates, however, that his association with the company had to have been cumulative between 1920 and 1928 (when Fullers produced his company’s Melbourne season). After 1928 he focused exclusively on touring his own shows. During his time in New Zealand for the Fullers in the early-1920s, Ayr reportedly spent eleven months in Auckland. He is also recorded as having managed Huxham’s Serenaders‘ Tasmanian tour in 1922.
3: Death and probate notices published in the Sydney Morning Herald identify his legal name as Air. It has not yet been established when he adopted Ayr as his professional name.
4: Ayr was survived by his wife, Mabel, their three children, Tom, Ned and Millie, and several grandchildren. The 1938 “Days of Drama” article records while the Ayrs’ children were growing up they always accompanied their parents on tour, and subsequently all were heavily involved in various aspects of theatrical production.
Image: Bill Ayr as Old Bill Graham in A Sport from Hollow Place (Palace Theatre, Melbourne). Source: Table Talk (Melbourne) 9 Aug. 1928, 19.



[Aust: 1889-1892] Actor, librettist, writer, director, choreographer

Although his time in Australia was brief, barely three years, Frank Ayrton played a significant role in helping develop the craft of many local writers, actors and dancers. He and his wife, actress/dancer Madge Seymour, came to Australia in November 1889 under the contract to George Rignold. The following year Ayrton adapted the libretto for Rignold’s Dick Whittington pantomime (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney), in collaboration with Frank Eugarde (music). He  also shared choreography duties with his wife. Ayrton and Seymour (along with Eugarde) were involved in the creation of one more pantomime before returning to Britain, Babes in the Wood (1891). His association with Eugarde also lead to the writing of several popular songs.

1: Ayrton’s Australian debut was at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney on 9 November. He played the role of Nat Gosling in The Flying Scud. His billing for that production records that he had previously appeared at London’s Strand and Crystal theatres.
2: One of the more popular songs written by Ayrton and Eugarde was the patriotic number “The Old Flag and the New” (1892).
3: Reports on Ayrton and Seymour’s theatrical activities continued to published in Australian newspapers well into the early 1900s. The pair are recorded as specialising in pantomime and melodrama, and also toured their own company ca. 1907. One of the productions most associated with Ayrton around the turn of the century was The Power of Gold.



(1868-1953) New Zealand-born actor, theatrical manager, writer, producer, entrepreneur.

bailey-bert-aust-postal-historyPerhaps most famous as “Dad” in the stage and film adaptations of Steele Rudd’s On Our Selection stories, Bert Bailey was raised in Sydney and left school at 15 to work as a telegram boy, floor manager at Crystal Palace skating rink, and descriptive singer in minstrel shows. In 1889 he joined Edmund Duggan’s touring theatre company and together they established a long professional and creative partnership (including 12 years working for William Anderson). Between 1912 and the late-1930s he and Julius Grant operated one of the strongest theatrical entrepreneurial teams in Australia, producing many Australian plays and several pantomime extravaganzas. He was also heard occasionally on radio from 1925 onwards. Bailey retired in 1940 a wealthy man and died in Sydney on 30 March 1953.

1:Bailey’s parents separated shortly after his birth, and he soon afterwards moved from New Zealand to Australia with his mother. She remarried in 1879 and in 1886 founded the drapery business McCathies, going on to become a prominent Sydney retailer. For further details see: Jennifer MacCulloch. “Mccathie, Harriette Adelaide (1840-1912).” Australian Dictionary of Biography. 10 (1986).
2: Frank Van Straten indicates that Bailey worked in vaudeville before he joining Edmund Duggan’s company in 1889 (aged 21), but names the Canterbury Music Hall in George Street, Sydney as the venue where he “eventually faced the footlights as a descriptive singer.” This could not have occurred at the theatre when it operated as the Canterbury Music Hall, however, as it did not become known by that name until June 1890. Prior to then it was the Haymarket Theatre (aka The Haymarket Palace of Varieties).
3: Albert Edmunds is a collaborative writing name used by Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan.
4: Bailey and Grant pantomimes included: Jack and Jill (1918), Mother Hubbard (1919), and Sinbad the Sailor (1920). All were staged at the King’s Theatre, Melbourne and in partnership with J. and N. Tait.
Image source: Australian Postal History.



aka Snug Balnaves

balnaves-a-e-py-29-july-1932-3(1903-1957) Banker, theatre director, writer (radio/theatre), songwriter. [Born Albert Edward Balnaves in Penoloa, South Australia]

A.E. Balnaves worked as a bank teller, and later branch manager, for the Commercial Banking Company of Australasia from the mid-1920s to 1947. For much of that time he was also active in amateur theatre as an actor, writer and designer. His musical comedies The Singing Girl (1930), The Revue Star (1931) and Hello Princess (1932) were staged during his tenure at Yorketown (South Australia), with the latter work also playing nearby towns. Balnaves contributed the dialogue for the Penola Younger Set’s 1947 revue Follies on Broadway, and that same year resigned from the bank to work in Sydney as a full-time radio script writer for Colgate-Palmolive. His most successful work was the comedy series Ada and Elsie.

1: Balnaves also wrote a number of one act plays which were staged in the region and broadcast on radio. His known plays are Severals, Sacrifice and Mrs ‘Arris and Son (the first two were reportedly broadcast by radio station 5CL). His comedy sketch on Lord Nelson (1946) was broadcast nationally from Adelaide in 1946 by the popular comedy team of Iris Hart, Robert Fricker and Donnell Downey (‘Today’s Highlights on National Radio.’ Daily Examiner 17 Sept. 1946, 4).
2: Ada and Elsie was conceived by one of its stars, Dorothy Foster. By 1950 Balnaves was able to write the scripts from Adelaide. Foster occasionally travelled there to work with him on script development.
3: Balnaves continued to be involved in local theatre after returning to Adelaide. As an actor he was sometimes billed by his nickname – Snug. He died in 1957, aged 53, and is buried in the Saint Jude Cemetery, Brighton South Australia.
Image source: Pioneer (Yorketown, SA) 29 July 1932, 3



Bancks, J.C. (1889-19520) One of Australia’s most significant caricaturists, James Charles Bancks worked for numerous journals and magazines, including the Bulletin and the Green Room. He is best remembered for creating the classic Australian comic character Ginger Meggs. In the 1930s he also provided material for a number of musical revues, in addition to writing the libretto for the romantic musical comedy Blue Mountains Melody (1934). Bancks died suddenly at his home in Point Piper, Sydney, on 1 July 1952 of coronary vascular disease.



aka Mona Barrie

(ca. 1906-1964) Variety entertainer, actor.

The daughter of comedian Phil Smith and variety performer Jessie Barlee, Mona Barlee was born in London but raised in Australia from 1913. She likely made her professional debut in the chorus of J.C. Williamson‘s Merry Widow (1922) and after touring with the Lionel Walsh Comic Opera Co (1924-25) returned to The Firm for the remainder of the decade. Although her Australian stage career mostly comprised musical comedy, Barlee did appear briefly in several revues, including the Tivoli productions (1930-31), and made her feature film debut in George Wallace‘s His Royal Highness (1932). She moved to America in 1933 and went on to appear in more than 50 films (as Mona Barrie).

Barlee’s sister, Rene Barlee was also a well-known entertainer in Australia during the 1920s.



(1851-1908) Actor, theatrical manager, director/producer, journalist, dramatist [Born John Ringrose Atkins in Dublin, Ireland]

barry-dan-mp-6-jan-1898-9The son of a prominent barrister, John Atkins came to Australia with his family at age seven. After completing his schooling at Melbourne Grammar he worked briefly as a journalist before taking to the stage. As Dan Barry he eventually established himself as one of Australia’s leading actor/managers specialising in melodrama and regional touring. In his later years he also sought out business opportunities beyond stage drama. His other ventures included a circus in Ballarat, touring film, variety entertainment and music (Dan Barry’s World-Wide Wonder Show, 1906-07), and operating the Paradise picture and concert entertainment at St Kilda, Melbourne (1907). In 1906 Barry and Charles Tait produced and directed The Story of the Kelly Gang. The world’s first full-length motion picture its script was based on the play Barry had earlier toured.

1: Barry died of heart disease at his home in Walters Street, Hawksburn (Melbourne) on 1 July 1908. He was interred at Kew Cemetery. Having never married Barry was survived by his mother.
2: Although Barry claimed to have graduated from Melbourne University, no record of either his graduation or attendance at the university has been located.
3. Variety artists confirmed as having been employed by Barry at some stage during their career are Les Coney, Alice Braund, Claude Gray, Frank Reis and Pansy Montague (aka La Milo).
4: Although mostly associated with bush touring, Barry nevertheless showed in the capital cities at various times, and had a particularly strong association with Melbourne’s Alexandra Theatre. In an extensive tribute to Barry in 1908, Adelaide’s Gadfly records: “Barry was a born advertiser. He was possessed of an urbanity that was stupendous. His cheek was of brass, his constitution of iron, and he had a voice that could sob or snarl at will. Dan Barry reached his greatest dramatic heights when he made his famous speeches to his audiences (“Dan Barry Makes His Exit.” 8 July 1908, 7).
Image source: Melbourne Punch 6 Jan. 1898, 9.



Bentley, Walter 1 [TT Oct 1915, 50](1849-1927) Scottish-born actor, manager, elocutionist, teacher, producer, administrator, dramatist, writer. [Born William Begg]

Walter Bentley spent some time in Queensland and New Zealand during his youth and after returning to Britain trained under Henry Irving. He later established a reputation for dramatic acting (notably Shakespearian characterisations) and toured America as principal actor in the mid-1880s. He returned to Australia in 1891 for George Coppin, again in 1898 (living for a while in Queensland) and 1909, after which time he remained. Although his career was largely carried out in “legitimate” theatre Bentley nevertheless occasionally strayed into the realms of popular culture entertainment, presenting comic recitations, monologues and travel lectures at popular concerts.

Image source: Theatre Magazine (Sydney) Oct. 1915, 50.



aka Len Buderick / Harry L. Budrick

Actor, conversationalist, comedian, tour manager, director, entrepreneur, industry activist [Born in South Australia]

Leonard Budrick’s professional career began in Adelaide in 1904. He later worked for Kate Howarde (1905-1907, 1917-1920, 1932), Harry Clay (1909 Walter Bentley [above] tour), Woods-Williamson (1910), Dan Barry [above] (1910-11), Jefferson Tait (1913), George Blood (1914), and the Fullers (1918). He also co-produced Carini and Buderick’s Merrymakers and Big Picture Show (1908-09); toured the Budrick-Langley company (1911-12); was employed as a circuit manager (1916-17) and entertainer (1922) by vaudeville entrepreneur Harry Clay; and featured in Kate Howarde’s hit play Possum Paddock (1919-20/1932) and its film adaptation (1921). Prior to his semi-retirement from the stage (ca. 1935), Budrick primarily toured his own companies (both dramatic and variety) around regional Australia. He also worked in radio, appeared in the 1932 film On Our Selection, and was a leading figure with the Actors’ Federation of Australia.

Buderick is the most common spelling of his name in newspapers and magazines prior to 1918. Both Budrick and Buderick have been identified between 1918 and 1923, while the variant spelling, Buderick, appears only rarely after 1923.
Image source: Australian Variety (Sydney) 7 Dec. 1917, n.pag.



(1837-1804) Journalist, author, poet, playwright.

A journalist and writer whose career was undertaken in both Sydney and Melbourne, Grosvenor Bunster’s stories appeared in a variety of journals from around the early to mid-1860s. His novel, Henstone’s Revenge, was published in 1896. He wrote at least three theatrical productions, one of these being the musical burlesque The Belle of Woolloomooloo (1872).



(1885-1975) Pianist [Born in Beenleigh, Queensland]

Although best known as one of Australia’s most famous concert pianists, Edward Cahill’s professional career in music began in early-1914 when he became the accompanist for Edward Branscombe‘s Violet Dandies. Interestingly were it not for winning the gold medal for best pianoforte solo at the 1909 Brisbane Jubilee Exhibition Cahill may have remained involved with his father’s drapery business. During his time with Branscombe (1914-1916), Cahill came under the wing of Nellie Melba, and she subsequently became patron of his 1917-1918 concert tour with fellow-Dandies tenor, George Brooke. After leaving Australia the glamorous pianist dazzled royalty and the public of Europe, Britain and the East until his career was interrupted by World War II.

1: Born and raised in south-east Queensland, Cahill received his early education at a local state school before attending St James Christian Brothers College, Brisbane.
2: In a 1916 interview published in the Prahran Telegraph (Melbourne) Cahill said of his time with Edward Branscombe: “Until I joined the Dandies… I had done no accompaniment work, and any success I may have achieved is due to Mr Branscombe. He is absolutely wonderful in detail, and for harmony there is not another such man in Australia” (“Gifted Young Musician.” 5 Feb. 1916, 4).
3: While living in Switzerland during the war Cahill gave charity concerts for interned troops. He later took a courageous stand against apartheid as a resident of South Africa, before moving to Monaco in his declining years.
Image source: Michael Moran



(1852-1909) Actor, comedian , stage manager, director [Born in California, USA]

One of Australia’s finest stock character actors and theatrical comedians of the late 19th and early 20 centuries, George Paul Carey attended the Fort Street School in Sydney and then briefly worked in a foundry. While there he fortuitously W.J. Holloway who influenced his decision to become an actor. He later founded the Prince Alfred Amateur Dramatic Company before making his professional debut in 1869 at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Theatre. Over the next four decades Carey was seldom out of work, appearing in Shakespeare, melodrama, comedy and pantomime among other genres. He is also known to have worked in England (1883-84), India (ca. 1883, 1884-85), and New Zealand (incl. 1886, 1891, 1908). His pantomime engagements included Humpty Dumpty (1877), Gulliver (Melbourne, 1881), Jack and the Beanstalk (Islington, England, 1883), and The Forty Thieves (1899).

1: Carey’s parents possibly came from East Maitland in the New South Wales Hunter River region. They had travelled to America shortly before his birth and returned in 1855, reportedly on the same ship that bought the Backus Minstrels to the country.
2. Among the biggest names Carey worked for (and with) were W.J. Holloway, Samual Lazar, G.B.W. Lewis, George Rignold, (Eduardo) Majeroni and W.J. Wilson, Luscombe Searelle, Williamson, Garner and Musgrove, Robert Brough and Dion Boucicault, Williamson and Musgrove, William Anderson, Charles Holloway, and Allan Hamilton. As a director he is known to have produced The Three Hats (India, 1885) and Home Sweet Home (for Allan Hamilton’s 1907 Tasmanian and New Zealand tours).
3. Carey died in St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney on 28 April 1909, a few weeks short of his 57th birthday. Survived by his wife May (a daughter of actress Mrs Walter Hill), and their son, the actor Reginald Carey, his death was widely reported throughout Australasia.
4. Several of Carey’s obituaries report that he appeared in Williamson, Garner and Musgrove’s 1889 Aladdin pantomime (Theatre Royal, Sydney). However, at that time he was in Tasmania touring with the Brough-Boucicault company. Carey did appear in Williamson and Musgrove’s The Forty Thieves in 1899, but this was an Adelaide revival of the show that premiered in Sydney at Her Majesty’s in December the previous year.
Image Source: Table Talk (Melbourne) 6 May 1909, 6.



(ca. 1853-1926) English-born actress, manager, director/producer.

Ella Carrington came to Australia with her husband/manager Charles Fuller in 1877 for Harwood, Stewart, Hennings and Coppin. In 1879 she and Fuller established the Stray Leaves Combination. Essentially a variety/sketch company, it included Charles H. Taylor, the actor/manager with whom Carrington was later closely associated. The Taylor-Carrington Dramatic Company toured throughout Australasia and the East for many years, and in the 1910s the couple were key members of the dramatic company operated by Fullers’ Theatres. Although best known as a dramatic actress Carrington also appeared in pantomimes and in her last years was employed by Melbourne’s Hoyts De Luxe.

1: In 1880 Taylor and Carrington were arrested and charged with the murder of an infant. The charges were dropped when it was proven that Carrington had suffered a miscarriage.
2: There was no relationship between Charles Fuller and Fullers’ Theatres (operated by Benjamin Fuller and John Fuller Jnr).
Image source: State Library of Victoria.



(1843-1918) Writer, librettist, illustrator.

Thomas Carrington studied medicine before travelling to Australia to try his luck on the goldfields. It was as an illustrator, however, that he established himself, producing political caricatures for a number of journals and illustrating several books. He later turned to writing, with his output including regular contributions to the Argus and Australasian, and a collaboration with J. Eville in 1874 on an adaptation of John Strachan’s Humpty-Dumpty pantomime. A prominent figure in Melbourne’s Bohemian circle, Carrington was associated with leading literary figures such as Adam Lindsay Gordon, Marcus Clarke [below] and Henry Kendall.



(1914-1983) English-born actor, (stage, radio, film and television), librettist, playwright

John Cazabon came to Australia as a thirteen year-old and by 1933 was a member of the Pickwick Theatre Group. Although best remembered legitimate theatre and television actor, he nevertheless occasionally dabbled in variety-type entertainment. This included appearing in several revues (notably Snappy Sydney, 1933 and Now and Then 1934) and co-writing the musical comedy Good Catch (1934) with composer George English Jnr. He is also recorded as being on the hill of concert in Sydney in 1945 that featured singer Peter Dawson [below] and several well-known variety artists. His other original works include Hearts to Mend (playlet, 1933), and the three act comedy Stranger Walk In (1935). Cazabon died in Ealing, London, on 22 June 1983.

1: Cazabon’s early theatre career was closely associated with his sister, Norah. His radio career in Australia saw him appear in numerous dramas and serials, among them Sleeping Clergyman, for which he won the 1948 Macquarie Award for Best Actor. After returning to Britain in the early 1950s Cazabon went on to carve out a long career in television, with occasional film films as well. One of his few Australian film credits was Harry Watt’s Eureka Stockade (1949), starring Chips Rafferty.
2: Born in Watford, Hertfordshire, on 3 August 1914, he was the eldest son of violinist and composer Albert Cazabon (1883–1970) and his Australian-born actress wife Nora (nee Delaney). Albert Cazabon, who had much experience in Britain as a film score composer, came to Australia under contract to E.J. and Dan Carroll and served as musical director/conductor of the Prince Edward Theatre orchestra from 1927 to 1936.
Image source: Sun (Sydney) 4 Mar. 1934, 27.



(1846-1881) Dramatist, songwriter, journalist.

After immigrating to Australia in 1863 Clarke found employment as a journalist with several newspapers and five years later began writing for the stage, his output including pantomimes, burlesques, dramas and vaudeville sketches. He also had major success in the early 1870s with his serialised story His Natural Life. His most controversial work was the political satire, A Happy Land (1880). Clarke died on 2 August 1881 leaving behind an unfinished opera libretto titled Queen Venus. It was later completed by Henri Kowalski as Moustique and given its Australian premiere in 1889.



(1899-1973). Regarded as one of the greatest-ever wire walkers, Con (Cornelius) Colleano spent most of his career performing in circus. For a brief period in the early 1920s, however, he worked on the vaudeville stage, appearing on the Tivoli (1922) Fullers (1922-1923) circuits. The latter engagement included a tour of New Zealand. Following a 1924 tour South Africa he made his debuting at the New York Hippodrome before returning to the circus with the Ringling Brothers. He continued to work his act around the world up until the early 1950s.

  • For further details see: Mark St Leon. The Wizard of the Wire : The Story of Con Colleano. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1993.
  • See also Winnie Trevail



(1842-18880) Dramatist, journalist, barrister.

Walter H. Cooper started his professional career as a journalist during the late 1860s, and in 1868 wrote one of his most acclaimed dramas, Colonial Experience. His other works from this period included the pantomimes, The History of Kodadad and His Brothers (1867) and Harlequin Little Jack Horner (1868), along with several sensation dramas, notably Sun and Shadow (1870), and at least one farce. Cooper’s last few years were filled with turmoil and controversy which may well have contributed to his early death in 1880.



Cosgrove, John - 1910 cu [SLNSW](1867-1925) Actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, variety entertainer.

Educated at St Aloysius’ College, Sydney, John Cosgrove showed early promise as an actor and secured his first professional engagement at age 1919 with Alfred Dampier [below]. During his long career he appeared with numerous legitimate theatre companies, including the George Miln Shakespeare Co, J.C. Williamson’s, Brough and Boucicault, Bland Holt, Harry Clay’s Dramatic Co and Fullers’ Theatres. His last dramatic engagement was with Osche Asche [above] at Melbourne’s King’s Theatre. Cosgrove wrote several plays and screenplays, appeared in some 20 films, and was occasionally involved in variety entertainment as a monologuist and circuit manager (notably with Harry Clay).

Image: John Cosgrove, 1910. Source: State Library of New South Wales.



(1818-1905) English actor, dramatist.

During his brief time in Australia (1854-57), Henry Thornton Craven was heavily involved in the local theatre industry. As an actor he was associated with the Little Lyceum Theatre in Sydney and Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. Several of his works were also written and performed during his stay, including the pantomime Harlequin King Blear (1854) and the burlesque Pong Wong, the Mandarin (1857). His two act drama Our Nellie (1855) was published in Australia and at least one other work The Post Boy (1866) was staged in the country.



(1880-1940) Librettist, actor, lawyer. [Born William John Young Curtis]

During the first decade of 20th century, W.J. Curtis managed to balance his university studies and early legal career with a heavy involvement in amateur theatre, first as an actor/singer and later as a librettist. A founding member of the Player’s Club amateur theatre company, he was closely associated with Philip Lytton. In 1905 Curtis collaborated with composer W. Arundel Orchard on the comic opera The Coquette. They later wrote The Emperor (comic opera, 1906), Ulla the Bowman (cantata, 1909) and Dorian Gray (opera, 1919). Curtis also had a one act comedy, The Amateur Burglar, staged in 1908. His legal career saw him rise from lawyer and barrister to District Court Judge and King’s Counsel. He also helped found the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and served as a director for Harry Rickards’ Tivoli Theatres Ltd.



(ca.1847-1908) Dramatist, actor, manager, director, producer.

One of the most significant Australian-based actor/managers of the 19th century, Alfred Dampier came to the Antipodes in 1873 under contract to H.R. Harwood [below] and George Coppin. He operated his own company around the region for several years before touring the USA and Britain ca. 1878. After returning to Australia he had much success with melodrama. His music theatre works included Helen’s Babies and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1886), while his melodrama Marvellous Melbourne (1889) also contained much music.



(1841-1921) Dramatist, actor, director.

The author of more than 35 plays, George Darrell is best known for such works as Transported for Life (1876), Back from the Grave (1878), The Sunny South (1883) and The Squatter (1885). After starting out his career in the mid-to-late 1860s as a singer with Fanny Simonsen’s company and as a juvenile lead with Walter Montgomery he began writing his own works, one of the earliest being Man and Wife (1871). His output also comprised variety sketches and music theatre works. Darrell last appeared on the stage as an actor in 1916.



dawson-peter-national-museum-of-australia(1882-1961) Singer (bass-baritone), recording artists, entertainer.

Worldwide renowned baritone Peter Dawson carved out a career of more sixty years as a concert singer and best-selling gramophone pioneer, performing a wide array of musical styles, including operatic arias, oratorio solos and rousing ballads. He has been described as having a remarkably fluent and technically adroit vocal technique which enabled him to excel in highly demanding classical pieces. Among his numerous career achievements he became the first person to record “Waltzing Matilda.” Although never considered a vaudeville performer Dawson nevertheless toured the Australian Tivoli circuit under Hugh D. McIntosh‘s management between 20 November 1915 (Melbourne) and 8 April 1916. During his career he also appeared on radio, in two films, and in a number of shorts.

  • For further details see James Glennon. “Dawson, Peter Smith (1882-1961).” Australian Dictionary of Biography 8 (1981).
  • A large selection of Peter Dawson recordings are available via YouTube.
  • The British Pathe website also includes a short film of Dawson performing “The Winding Road” (1935).  [sighted 22/11/2016]
1: Dawson’s 1915-1916 Tivoli tour included Adelaide, Sydney (twice), Brisbane and a farewell season in Melbourne. Vaudeville artists who appeared in the same Tivoli programmes with Dawson included Vaude and Verne, Grace Quine, Jack Cannot, Billy Rego, the Tivoli Follies, and Morris Golden (“the Yiddle with the Fiddle”). For the Brisbane season he appeared with his own company, the line-up including Madame Slaoffski, Jacques Pintel, Harrison and Jones, and “The Nigger.”
2: In 1984, Dawson was chosen by the Guinness Book of Recorded Sound as one of the top 10 singers on disc of all time. In 2007, his 1931 recording of the song “Along the Road to Gundagai” was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry. The following year he was chosen as one of 150 great South Australians by a panel of senior writers to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Advertiser newspaper.
Image source: National Museum of Australia.



(-1856) Actor, writer, director, theatre manager, politician.

Henry Deering and his wife Eliza arrived in Australia in 1843 under contract to Joseph Wyatt, lessee of Sydney’s Royal Victoria Theatre and remained there until 1846. They then spent some two years in Adelaide, with Deering largely associated with the Royal Adelaide and New Queen’s Theatre (for George Coppin). In 1848 they relocated to Geelong, Victoria, where Deering initially worked as stage manager at Henry Elmes’ newly built Theatre Royal. He briefly spent time in Tasmania (ca. 1850) before returning to Geelong where he later leased the Royal from Elmes (1851-52). During his Australian career Deering wrote and/or produced a number of original pantomimes. He was also responsible for staging variety-style entertainments as part of his theatrical programmes.

  • See also: Olly Deering [below]
1: After being elected to the Geelong Council in 1852, Deering transferred his Theatre Royal lease to George Coppin, and effectively retired from the theatre. He died in Geelong in April 1856.
2: Among the pantomimes attributed to Deering as an author were: Harlequin Jack Spratt (1844) and The Red Gnome of the Ruby Mines (1848).



Deering, Olly [TT 1 Nov 1906, 6](ca. 1843-1906) Actor, comedian. [Born: Oliver Deering, possibly in Sydney]

Born into a theatrical family, Olly Deering’s career of more than fifty years saw him acknowledged as a fine all-round actor who was painstaking with his preparation. Among his most acclaimed roles were Deacon Skinner (Struck Oil) and Nat Gould (The Flying Scud). He was also cast in two Luscombe Searelle comic operas – Bobadil (1884) and Isadora (1885). With a special bent towards comedy roles, Deering was a popular choice for pantomimes and burlesques, and he subsequently appeared in many significant productions – among them works by Garnet Walch, Walter Cooper, and Marcus Clarke (including the controversial A Happy Land, 1880). He died in Sydney on 17 November 1906 from an apoplectic fit.

  • See also: Henry Deering [above]
1: A number of obituaries record that Deering was born in Geelong, Victoria. This is improbable if he was born prior to 1848 as his parents had no known link to the town until then. It is believed that he spent part of his childhood and possibly his early teens in Geelong, however.
2: After his father’s death death his mother married an actor by the name of Chapman. Together with Olly and his sister, Waddie, they toured Australia and the East for a number of years.
2: The Sydney Morning Herald records that Deering “served under nearly every management and appeared in probably every town in Australasia” during his extraordinary career (17 Nov. 1906, 13). At the time of his death he was appearing in Meynell and Gunn’s 1906 Sydney production of The Fatal Wedding. He was survived by wife, actress Linda Raymond.
Image: Olly Deering as Riley in The Fatal Wedding (1906). Source: The Theatre: An Illustrated Monthly (Sydney) 1 Nov. 1906, 6.



(1884-1926) Librettist, farmer, businessman, publicist, author.

De Garis, CJEntrepreneurial businessman, publisher and founder of the Sunraysia Daily, Clement John J. De Garis started out his career in the Mildura region of Victoria. His interest in the arts saw him collaborate with Reginald Stoneham on the musical comedy F.F.F. (1920) and he later wrote and published several short stories, a novel and an autobiography, Victories of Failure (1925). Charged with fraud but exonerated in the mid-1920s, De Garis committed suicide in 1926.



Father James Duff, a Perth-based Roman Catholic priest gained much notoriety in Western Australia when he fell out with composer Dr Joseph Summers over Two Worlds (1900), a musical drama adaptation of Milton’s poems Paradise Lost  and Paradise Regained. Although both men went on to produce their own versions of Two Worlds, neither work received much critical acclaim. Father Duff is also known to have published The Sacred Isle (1901), a drama in five acts.



English writer/librettist, theatre manager/lessee, director, general manager, actor.

Having established his reputation in Britain as a theatre manager/lessee (Liverpool, Edinburgh and London), and provincial tour manager, Frank Emery came to Australia in 1889 under contract to Williamson Garner and Musgrove. During his time in Australia he was engaged as director, business manager, pantomime librettist, cameo actor and from 1892 as a feature actor (many of these roles being with Williamson and Musgrove). Prior to returning to England in 1896 Emery also managed Sydney’s Theatre Royal (with Edward Sass), established his own touring companies, and toured as an actor with Charles Godfrey’s Vaudeville Company.

Emery’s Australian pantomimes include Cinderella (1890) and The Forty Thieves (1891). Emery’s career in Britain post-1896 involved acting, directing and management.



Espinasse, Bernard [ASA 1902, 27](1868- ) Librettist, dramatist, writer, poet.

After staring out as an actor in the early 1890s Bernard Espinasse was employed as J.C. Williamson‘s literary secretary. In addition to his own plays (including Her Good Name and Blind Love), he co-wrote the libretti for a comic opera (The Magic Cloak), two pantomimes (Little Red Riding Hood, 1899; and Australis; Or, The City of Zero, 1900) and several dramatic adaptations. He also published poems, stories and travel articles. Espinasse’s reputation was ruined in 1912 when he was gaoled in England for fraud.



(1860-1899) journalist, editor, author, librettist/playwright [Born Henry Congreve Evans in Nuriootpa, South Australia]

Evans, H. C. [QATL 12 Jan 1899, 12]Born in the Barossa Valley, Harry Evans was later schooled in Adelaide. At age 16 he joined the Advertiser, eventually going to become chief of staff and in 1889 co-founded the weekly humorous and satirical publication Quiz (1889-1910, aka Quiz and the Lantern). In addition to his journalistic and editorial responsibilities, Evans wrote a number of novelettes (some were published in Quiz), and the libretto for two operas Immomeena (1893) with Moritz Heuzenroeder; and The Mandarin (1896), with John M. Dunn. Both works were staged at Adelaide’s Theatre Royal. Following his death in early 1899 it was reported that he had also completed several other comedies.

1: Evans was also known by the writing name H. Congreve Evans
2: His mother, Matilda Jane Evans (nee Congreve, 1827-1886), was a teacher and novelist who wrote under pseudonym Maud Jeanne Franc. His uncle was adventurer, doctor, preacher and journalist Henry John “Harry” Congreve (1829-1918). In the latter profession he was associated with the Gawler Standard and Gawler Bunyip during the 1880s, and later with Adelaide’s Advertiser. A prolific writer, his journalism was often published under the by-line “H. J. C.”
Image source: Quiz and the Lantern (Adelaide) 12 Jan. 1899, 12.



(1832-1889) Actor, dramatist, theatre manager, scenic artist. [Born George Curtis Rowe]

Although his association with Australia was only brief, George Fawcett he nevertheless played a significant part in the early development of professional theatre at that time. He arrived in Australia in 1853 and spent several years touring regional Victoria before moving to Melbourne. Mostly associated with the Prince of Wales Theatre, Fawcett wrote and staged more than 15 works, ranging from pantomime and burlesque to comediettas and musical entertainments. He left the country in 1864, spending several years in New Zealand before establishing himself in both the USA and Britain. While there in 1879 he also wrote Fun on the Bristol for John F. Sheridan.



(1916-1977) Actor, writer. [Born: Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch]

Finch, Peter []Academy Award-winning actor, and five time recipient of Best Actor Awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Peter Finch was a fifth generation Australian despite being born in England. After leaving school in the early 1930s he attempted (and was fired from) various jobs, including copyboy (Sun, Sydney), waiter, delivery boy and jackaroo, before securing a job as a straightman opposite comedian Bert Le Blanc. He later appeared in revues for Ernest C. Rolls (notably This is Hollywood) before progressing to radio, local theatre and international stardom as an legitimate actor and film star.

Finch won his 1977 Oscar for Best Actor playing the role of crazed television anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network. He was the first of two actors to win the award posthumously. The other was Australian actor Heath Ledger.



Finn, Edmund [Picture Victoria](-1922) Librettist, author, journalist, barrister.

The eldest son of journalist Edmund Finn (1819-98), aka Garryowen, and brother of journalist and songwriter/librettist Pat Finn, Edmund Finn Jnr wrote several novels, notably A Priest’s Secret (1888) and the pantomimes Cinderella (1884), written for Williamson, Garner and Musgrove, and Dick Whittington and His Cat (1897) for William Anderson and Charles Holloway. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, Finn later became a barrister (but never practised) deciding instead to become a journalist. In 1875 he began his association with Melbourne Punch, initially as drama critic and later as editor. He also contributed articles to numerous journals.

Image source: Pictures Victoria (original held by Yarra Libraries)



(1858-1940) Actor and director (stage/film), writer, troupe proprietor, tailor.

Fitzgerald SA [WM 6 May 1911, 30]Stephen Australia Fitzgerald started his professional life as a tailor while being actively involved in amateur theatre. He turned professional in the early 1890s and went on to carve out a five-decade long career as one Australia’s leading dramatic actors. In the early 1910s he briefly toured Fitzgerald’s All Stars variety troupe with sons Jim Gerald, Max Clifton, and Lance Vane. His career included writing and directing the The Martydom of Nurse Cavill (1916), and directing two films in 1907 and 1910. He also scored acclaim as Dad in Kate Howarde‘s Possum Paddock (1919).


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Published on July 31, 2011 at 6:01 am  Comments Off on Practitioners: Other [A-L]