80 Years of History for University of Adelaide Theatre Guild

The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild can boast many milestones in its long history, notably the first-ever performance of Patrick White’s The Ham Funeral. The company celebrates a major anniversary in 2018 and has already staged challenging and diverse productions to mark it, with several more to come before the year ends. Lesley Reed reports.

As the second oldest amateur theatre company in South Australia, the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild (UATG) has much to be acknowledged in its 80th anniversary year.

A not-for-profit theatre company, UATG maintains a major role in supporting the development of amateur and professional theatre in Adelaide and in Australia and has a commitment to fostering theatre arts at the University of Adelaide as well as to linking the University with the community through the arts. The company believes strong support for the Humanities and the Performing Arts is a hallmark within great universities.

Providing the widest possible opportunity for members of the community to be involved in its work is important to the Theatre Guild. The theatre company is committed to fostering the work of younger people too, by providing ongoing and focused opportunities for them. This includes the company playing a part in honing and practicing their burgeoning skills, improving understanding of the performing arts, and helping these young people determine the ultimate place of the performing arts in their lives and careers. UATG also provides opportunities for Australian writers to test out their work and bring it before the public in a supportive environment.

The Guild clearly has an inherent link with a globally recognised education institution, the University of Adelaide, and high on its list of priorities therefore, is the support of student-led productions, together with fostering a learning environment through workshops, play-readings and events.

Testament to its wide range of excellent work, the company's productions have been successful in a range of prestigious awards within Adelaide's amateur theatre circles.  

Each annual season of 3-4 plays has focused on the strengths of UATG, while embracing the obscure, supporting modern Australian playwrights and fostering new Adelaide talent.

Although recently branching into outdoor productions as well, the university’s Little Theatre is the Theatre Guild’s main venue.

In the years prior to this 80th anniversary year, the Guild has presented some 387 productions. On average, each production involves 30-40 people across onstage and backstage roles.

Over the past eight-decade period, UATG has produced many world, Australian and South Australian premières, most notably the first-ever performances of Patrick White's The Ham Funeral (1961), Season at Sarsaparilla (1962) and Night on Bald Mountain (1964).

So far in this busy 80th anniversary year, the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild has produced William Congreve’s The Way of the World as a three-night staged play reading in March, as well as its May play, Stephen Sewell’s Myth, Propaganda & Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America, directed by Erik Strauts.

July 2018 sees a student production, this time Stephen Adley Guirgis’ The Motherf**ker with the Hat, to be directed by Robert Baulderstone.

In August, Matt Houston directs Edward Albee’s The Goat or Who is Sylvia? followed in October by the SA Premiere of Tom Wright’s atmospheric Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by Geoff Britain.

James Watson directs a production titled Coriolanus & Macbeth in early November, his own new one-act adaptations of these Shakespeare classics.

A celebratory outdoor production in late November of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by well-known Shakespeare director Megan Dansie, ends a fast-paced, quality-filled 80th year for University of Adelaide Theatre Guild.

For further information visit https://www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild/

The Guild has come a long way from its first production 80 years ago and its long history has ensured much expertise and theatrical know-how has rubbed off along the eventful path from its initial venue, The Hut, to the intimate Little Theatre in which the company stages today’s quality productions.

Theatrical longevity is to be applauded in the current period of change and uncertainty in The Arts, with the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild standing proudly among Australian theatre companies that continue to provide fresh, relevant theatre for diverse audiences.

Images (from top): The Hut (top two images); The Little Theatre, Adelaide University; Twelfth Night (1991); Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America (May 2018); Medea; Much Ado About Nothing; Antigone (1973); Three Tall Women.