Celebrating 25 years of Theatre Day

Theatre SeatingDid you know that the third Tuesday in February is ‘Theatre Day’ in Victoria?

Oh, yes. Back in 1987, Winsome McCaughey (the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne) officially proclaimed it so, and today we celebrate the 25th annual Theatre Day in Melbourne with the announcement of the 2011 Green Room Award Nominations.

Having absolutely no knowledge that this special day existed, I spoke with former Green Room Award President (2005-2010) Dr Mark Williams about the history behind Theatre Day, and what it means for Melbourne theatre practitioners.

“It all started around about the same time as the Green Room Awards”, said Dr Williams, a Melbourne Solicitor and Barrister who completed his PhD in 17th century Theatre History.

“The Green Room Awards were founded by Blair Edgar – a hugely respected theatre practitioner – and Stephen Tandy, who played the lead in The Sullivans” he said.

Williams explained that Tandy and Edgar recognised the large number of people who earned their living from the theatre in the City of Melbourne at the time, and believed there should be a special day to commemorate the hardworking folk who create the magic – both offstage and on.

“They ran around garnering the support of companies like Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, and also various theatre owners in Melbourne, all of whom wrote letters of support for the cause to the then Lord Mayor, Winsome McCaughey”, said Williams.

After much hard work, it was officially proclaimed by Winsome McCaughey, “on behalf of the City of Melbourne, and in accordance with a resolution of the Council on 15th December, 1987” that that the third tuesday in February, each year, would be known as Theatre Day.

Such a wonderful notion, such a beautiful idea and such a shame it isn’t more widely recognised.

“They ran around garnering the support of companies like Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, and also various theatre owners in Melbourne, all of whom wrote letters of support for the cause to the then Lord Mayor, Winsome McCaughey”

The official proclamation states: “This is a day on which the City of Melbourne and the State of Victoria honour all those who derive their living from the Theatre”.

Unfortunately, it seems that many of the active members of the theatre community are unaware of this specially proclaimed day. Mention Theatre Day to many (but not all) performers and crew in the current industry (as I did last week) and the term elicits no more than a ‘huh?’ in response

What used to be a celebration throughout the Melbourne and greater Victorian theatre community has become just any other Tuesday in the theatre world.

“The main celebrations in the early days was that the City of Melbourne would put on a bit of a party and the Arts Centre would put on a party as well”, said Dr Williams.

“Nowadays, the main thing associated with Theatre Day is the announcement of the Green Room Award Nominations, which is intended to remember all the wonderful people who did something fantastic in theatre the year before.”

Williams explained that with the various changes that have taken place over the last 25 years in both the Melbourne City Council and the Arts Centre, nothing specific is done to celebrate Theatre Day, but he is eager for Theatre Day 2012 to be recognised by the arts community and general public alike.

“I’m very keen that as many people as possible celebrate this 25th anniversary of Theatre Day”, he said. “There is nowhere else in Australia that has a theatre day”.

Theatre Day Proclamation

And, why not? Shouldn’t we be recognising the talents of our “Artists, Musicians, the Craftspeople who work in the Workshops, the Stage Crews, the Managements, the Publicists, the Media and the staff of every theatre enterprise in our community” [from the official proclamation] in every state?

Should we, perhaps, have a national Theatre Day?

Until a National Theatre Day is officially proclaimed, let us who are not in Melbourne today join with the Victorians in celebrating not only the wonderful talent recognised in the 2011 Green Room Nominations, but every single person involved in theatre in Australia.

You know who you are. Thank you. And congratulations.

Currently working as a lawyer for many of the theatre companies and venues in Melbourne, Dr Williams is no stranger to the world of theatre, having been a member of Actor’s Equity for 10 years in his early career as a writer and director. His involvement with the Green Room Awards since stretches back as far as 1993, and he is still involved as a panel member on the Theatre – Companies panel. 


Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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