Melbourne Theatre CompanyThe Melbourne Theatre Company (popularly known as MTC) is a theatre company based in Melbourne, Victoria. Founded in 1953 as the Union Theatre Repertory Company, it is the oldest professional theatre company in Australia. The company's Southbank Theatre houses the 500-seat Sumner and the 150-seat Lawler, and the company also performs in the Arts Centre Melbourne's Fairfax Studio and Playhouse, all located in Melbourne's Arts Precinct in Southbank. Considered Victoria's state theatre company, it formally comes under the auspices of the University of Melbourne. Currently, it offers a Mainstage Season of ten to twelve plays each year, as well as education, family and creative development activities. It has a subscriber base of approximately 20,000 people and plays to a quarter of a million people annually.
HistoryThe Melbourne Theatre Company was founded in 1953 by John Sumner as the Union Theatre Repertory Company, based at the Union Theatre of the University of Melbourne's Student Union building. Sumner's original idea was to present a season of plays over those months when the Union Theatre was not being used by student drama societies. It was Australia's first professional repertory theatre, presenting a new play every two weeks during the season. Later, that became three weekly repertory. The first play, Jean Anouilh's Colombe, opened on 31 August 1953, starring Zoe Caldwell (who was later to have considerable success on Broadway), George Fairfax and Alex Scott.
Over the years, MTC has championed Australian writing, introducing the works of writers such as Alan Seymour, Vance Palmer, Patrick White, Alan Hopgood, Alexander Buzo, David Williamson, John Romeril, Jim McNeil, Alma De Groen, John Powers, Matt Cameron, Ron Elisha, Justin Fleming, Janis Bolodis, Hannie Rayson, Louis Nowra, Michael Gurr, Jack Davis, Michael Gow and Joanna Murray-Smith (to mention only a few) to mainstream Melbourne audiences. The first Australian play produced by the company, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler, in 1955 was quickly recognised as an Australian classic.
Lawler had by that time succeeded Sumner as Director of the company, taking it through the 1955 and 1956 seasons. When Lawler left to perform The Doll in London, he handed the directorship to Wal Cherry, who oversaw the company from 1956 until 1959. Cherry's experimental and daring approach to theatre did much to broaden the tastes of Melbourne theatre-goers, though the company suffered at the box-office. In 1959, John Sumner returned and subsequently steered the company through twenty-eight years of growth, watching it become, by the time he retired in 1987, the largest theatre company in Australia. Since then the company has had three artistic directors: Roger Hodgman (1987–1999), who steered MTC through the financially troublesome period of the late 1980s and 1990s; Simon Phillips, who was Artistic Director from 2000-2011; and Brett Sheehy from 2012. Robyn Nevin, Pamela Rabe, and Aidan Fennessy managed the 2012 season in the interim between Phillips and Sheehy.
The Melbourne Theatre Company has performed in many Melbourne venues in its history, including the Russell Street Theatre, the Melbourne Athenaeum, St Martins Theatre, the Merlyn and Beckett Theatres at the Malthouse, the Playhouse and Fairfax Studio of the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Comedy Theatre and the Princess Theatre.