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Company History

Company History

State Theatre Company South Australia, the state’s leading theatre company and one of the oldest, most prolific, acclaimed and awarded theatre companies in Australia, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.

The South Australian Theatre Company (SATC) was established in 1965 under the Artistic Direction of John Tasker and the Company recognises that date as its official birthday.

However, the Company came into its contemporary form with its establishment as the state theatre company under the State Theatre Company of South Australia Act of 1972, a visionary initiative of former Premier, Don Dunstan.

The first Artistic Director of the new company was George Ogilvie, who served from 1972-76, and the Company changed to its current name in 1980 to reflect the Act.

In 1974, the SATC became the resident theatre company of the newly built Adelaide Festival Centre, performing mostly in The Playhouse (later The Dunstan Playhouse, which is still the company’s primary venue), and was the first state theatre company in Australia to hold its entire operations in one purpose-made building.

In 1977, Magpie Theatre was established as the youth arm of the company which continued until 1997. The company’s current State Educate program which caters for youth audiences remains a vital and vibrant part of the Company.

During the artistic direction of Jim Sharman from 1982-84, the company was renamed Lighthouse and acted as an ensemble theatre company with twelve actors: Robynne Bourne, Peter Cummins, Melissa Jaffer, Jacqy Phillips, Alan John (also a composer in residence), Gillian Jones, Melita Jurisic, Russell Kiefel, Stuart McCreery, Robert Menzies (replaced by Robert Grubb), Geoffrey Rush, Kerry Walker and John Wood.

Following George Ogilvie, other Artistic Directors have included Colin George, Keith Gallasch, John Gaden and Simon Phillips.

From 1996 when she was appointed Executive Director, Chris Westwood subtitled the company Australian Playhouse, and for two years, presented only Australian works.

Rodney Fisher joined the Company in 1998 and as Artistic Director, he directed productions including Macbeth, The Idiot, Kafka Dances, The Rose Tattoo and Twelfth Night. Rodney was awarded the AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the 1988 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to the performing arts as a director and writer.

Rosalba Clemente, actress, writer, director and teacher began as Artistic Director in 2000 and stayed with the Company for five years. As Artistic Director, she directed The Club, Don’s Party, Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, Carrying Light, Blithe Spirit, How I Learned to Drive, House Among the Stars, Holy Day, My Life My Love, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and Trojan Women. Following her Directorship, she took posts as head of the Theatre Panel for the Australia Council and then Head of Acting at Flinders University.

Adam Cook, a freelance theatre, opera and musical director from Sydney joined the company in 2005 and has been its longest-serving Artistic Director. He held the position until 2012 and while at the Company directed The Ham Funeral, The Glass Menagerie, Three Sisters, November, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Price, King Lear, Mnemonic, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Architektin, Blue/Orange, LyreBird: Tales of Helpmann, Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, Life x 3, Noises Off, The Government Inspector, Crow, The Shifting Heart and The Daylight Atheist.

Geordie Brookman was the Artistic Director from 2012- 2019, the youngest appointee to the position. A graduate of Flinders University, Geordie first joined the Company as Associate Director from 2008 – 2010 before returning two years later. Geordie formed an ensemble of six full-time actors (Nathan O’Keefe, Rashidi Edward, Miranda Daughtry, Anna Steen, Dale March) from 2017 to 2018. As Artistic Director, he directed Machu Picchu, Kryptonite, Animal Farm, The Gods of Strangers, Sense and Sensibility, In The Club, Vale, Macbeth, A Doll’s House, Betrayal, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Footfalls, The Importance of Being Earnest, Little Bird, The Seagull, Maggie Stone, Hedda Gabler, The Kreutzer Sonata, Speaking in Tongues and romeo&juliet.

Four time Helpmann Award winner and four time Sydney Theatre Award winner, Mitchell Butel joined the Company as Artistic Director in 2019. An actor, director and writer, Mitchell has worked extensively with all of the major theatre companies around Australia. Mitchell has acted for the Company in numerous productions since 1988, including Mr Burns: a post-electric play, for which he won a Helpmann Award for his performance of the titular character. As Artistic Director, Mitchell has directed Girls & Boys, Hibernation, Decameron 2.0 and Ripcord.

Throughout our 50 year history, the Company has played a pivotal role in the careers of many of Australia’s leading actors, directors, designers and writers, attracting artists of the calibre of Paul Blackwell, Nancye Hayes, Jacki Weaver, Judy Davis, Colin Friels, John Hargreaves, Robyn Nevin, Miriam Margolyes, Xavier Samuel, Miranda Tapsell, Hsiao-Ling Tang, Mel Gibson, Garry McDonald, Nathan O’Keefe, Pamela Rabe, Peter Carroll, John Wood, Lisa McCune, Caroline O’Connor, Edwin Hodgeman, Carmel Johnson, Kelton Pell, Dennis Olsen, Don Barker, Jada Alberts, Nathan Page, Elena Carapetis, Amber McMahon, Ursula Yovich, Melita Jurisic, Ruth Cracknell, Neil Armfield, Geoffrey Rush, Catherine Fitzgerald, Nescha Jelk, Nigel Levings, Ken Wilby, Tony Tripp, Geoff Cobham, Tony Briggs, Ailsa Patterson, Sue Smith, Alexis West and Michael Gow.

Since 2000, the Company has won six national Helpmann Awards, six South Australian Ruby Awards and many Adelaide Critics Circle Awards.

Through its many changes, the Company’s history charts the evolution of an arts organisation that is a vital part of the state’s cultural life.

Over the years, the Company has matured, grown and developed, building a bold and playful artistic legacy in collaboration with artists and audiences.

Our aim is to make, present and promote phenomenal, transformative, and inclusive theatre that enriches South Australian and Australian culture, to inspire re-thinking and share being in the moment and to create anticipation, immersion and surprise.