It is described as a dramatic tale of ambition, dreams and the hope of a brand new age of communication, and audiences are already raving about the Ensemble Theatre’s production of The Ruby Sunrise in Sydney.
Who was the real inventor of television, John Logie Baird, Vladimir Zworykin or Philo T. Farnsworth?
What if it had been Ruby, a poor, self-educated girl who, in 1927 created the first working photo-cathode tube in her Aunt Lois’s barn in Indiana but only her boyfriend Henry knew about it?
Fast forward to 1952 and a television studio in the grip of the McCarthy-era’s censorship and communist witch hunts where talented writer, Tad Rose, is looking for a new and exciting idea for a television play. When he meets script editor and bright spark, Lulu, daughter of Ruby, whose own ambition is to tell her mother’s story – whatever it takes – all his dreams seem to have come true.
Playwright Rinne Groff was inspired to write The Ruby Sunrise by the story of Philo T. Farnsworth, the farm boy from Idaho who was amongst the first inventors to produce an electric television transmitter.
Groff has made Farnsworth into a girl whose journey to escape an abusive home life leads her to enter the race to invent the first working television and escape her disadvantaged background.
Matilda Ridgeway makes her professional debut in the role of Ruby. Amanda Muggleton returns to the Ensemble stage for only the second time in the dual roles of Ruby’s Aunt Lois and the actress Ethel Reed. Paul Gleeson and Hollie Andrew last worked together on the feature film Somersault and are reunited as a studio executive and television starlet.
Glenn Hazeldine last appeared at the Ensemble in Tuesdays With Morrie and Jonathan Prescott played opposite Greta Scacchi in the Ensemble’s production of Mary Stuart in 2008. Catherine McGraffin has previously appeared in Trying, Charitable Intent and Death of a Salesman for Ensemble Theatre.
The Australian premiere of this show, which opened on Thursday, is the 100th production Sandra Bates has directed for the Ensemble Theatre in her 23 years at the theatre’s helm.
This number also includes productions that first premiered at Ensemble that Sandra then remounted / redirected for various tours to Perth, Melbourne, or regional venues.
Sandra’s association with the Ensemble Theatre commenced when she joined Hayes Gordon’s acting classes back in 1968 as a young (30 year old) pharmacist and mother of four children – her association spans 41 years.
She took over as Artistic & Governing Director in January 1986 when the theatre’s founder, Hayes Gordon retired after 28 years at the helm.
The Ruby Sunrise plays at the Ensemble Theatre until November 14.