Some of Australia’s leading Indigenous actors, writers and directors have been remembered in an exhibition curated by the College of Fine Arts' Tess Allas as part of the Sydney Festival.
181 Regent St is an archival exhibition celebrating the National Black Theatre, which was based in Redfern from its inception in 1972 until it closed in 1977.
The exhibition includes photographs, scripts and playbills, as well as documentary and other film material, some of which was broadcast on the ABC.
“It helped launch many careers of Aboriginal actors. It provided a very strong foundation on which other Aboriginal actors, directors, writers and technicians can be proud,” says Allas, Associate Lecturer in the School of Art History and Art Education at COFA.
“The National Black Theatre was established in the same year as the Aboriginal tent embassy. The ‘Moratorium for Black Rights’ was happening at the same time,” she says. “It was a very heady time politically.
“I believe that those people who started it were incredibly politicised. They were smart and funny. They made a blueprint for how to do things when you’re being ignored,” she says.
Aboriginal activist Chika Dixon and poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal were among some of the earliest members of the National Black Theatre.
The Theatre was fundamental in the careers of actors Bob Maza, Justine Saunders, Jack Charles and Lillian Crombie, who became key figures in the arts community. It also presented works by noted Aboriginal playwrights Kevin Gilbert, Robert Merritt and launched the career of Jack Davies.
Non-Indigenous people involved include Bryan Brown, Max Cullen and Angela Punch Macgregor.
Some of the resulting material, including the biting satire Basically Black, was also aired on the ABC.
181 Regent Street is part of Sydney Festival’s Black Capital, a series of performances, seminars and exhibitions reflecting the diversity of contemporary Aboriginal practice, in the heart of Redfern.
What: 181 Regent St: Addressing Black Theatre
When: Until 29 January
Where: Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh
Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW media office, 9385 1583