NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.


NIDA celebrates Jane Street Theatre

The 50thAnniversary of the Jane Street Theatre and Season of Australian Plays was commemorated on 25 October, with an evening that explored the Australian voice on stage since 1966.

Jane Street

The 50th Anniversary of the Jane Street Theatre and Season of Australian Plays was commemorated on 25 October with an evening that explored the Australian voice on stage since 1966.NIDA has always been a keen supporter of developing a professional Australian theatrical voice: a short playwriting short course was held at NIDA in 1961-62, and in 1965 Robert Quentin, then at the helm of the UNSW Drama Foundation, conceived the idea of the Jane Street Season of Plays, with NIDA Diploma and Advanced students taking on production and acting duties.

It was not until 1969 when NIDA and then Director John Clark took over the Season administration that it settled into a regular format of 2 or 3 plays showcasing new Australian writing and directing. Over 15 Seasons, 36 productions were staged at Jane Street, including 12 commissioned plays and 9 premieres of Australian plays including seminal productions of The Legend of King O’Malley (1970) and Don’s Party (1972).

The first of ourguest speakers, John McCallum, author of Belonging (2009), a critical history of Australian playwriting in the 20th Century, recounted his amazement watching the 1968 production, Terror Australis, produced by Jim Sharman. The iconoclasm of the production in the small converted church surroundings with the audience herded into the theatre via a sheep pen seemed emblematic of the passion invested by performers, writers and audience alike during the years of the emerging ‘New Wave’ theatre.

Thomas Keneally AO, our guest of honour, had been commissioned by Quentin to write his first play, Halloran’s Little Boat (1966) for the inaugural Jane Street Season. Keneally very generously reflected on his life of writing and the opportunities – or otherwise – forwriters at the time. The desire that was extant in 1966 for a national theatre and to hear the Australian vernacular and hear Australian stories is still necessary today, particularly in the wake of politicians with seemingly little interest in supporting the arts.

Our third speaker, Laura Lethlean graduated from NIDA in 2015, with a Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance), and her play The Space Between the Fuel and the Fire was performed at NIDA, as part of our 2016 October student productions. While recognising her good fortune, Laura argued passionately for greater support of new Australian playwrights. She set out the case that for theatre to become a viable alternative and a way forward for connection and discussion and reaction, it is critical that there be support, encouragement and advocates for Australian writing. While it may seem disheartening that the need to promote Australian voice is pertinent fifty-years later, in fact there was much celebration on the night of what is possible.

For the many alumni in attendance, the Jane Street Theatre was their first foray into professional theatre. Early-career graduates were provided with regular income during production season, and design and technical production students found themselves trusted with sets and staging, and a sense of real camaraderie was evidenced by the sharing of memories.

The highlight of the night was a link back to another NIDA playwriting connection, with Ken Healy who managed the NIDA Playwrights Course 1985-2008, awarding the Ken Healy Innovation in Writing Award.

Click here to view a few images from the night.