Sunday, November 14, 2010

Website updates

I have updated HAT-The History of Australian Theatre website at

Included in the update are several extra photographs of performers, 200 extra names for the database and an article about Tom Dawson, Australian Comedian.

The article is one I wrote for Stage Whispers Magazine, the November/December issue is available in full colour at selected newsagencies or through their website. I write regularly for the magazine, and some of my articles are on the website.

For genealogists, my article about researching your Australian Theatrical ancestors is available through the Suite101 website. More articles about the history of Australian theatre are also available there.

Apologies for not updating the blog regularly. Life has been a bit busy.

Please enjoy the update of the website, whilst I look in my old trunk for some more anecdotes for the blog.


Monday, November 1, 2010

The Greenwoods

In many cases, theatrical companies consisted of families who , desperate for financial security and having some talent, would form their own companies. One famous company in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries was the Greenwood family.

The Greenwoods were the wife and children of R C Greenwood of Auckland, New Zealand. There was Mrs Greenwood, her four daughters, Agatha, Nora, Maribel and Roberta and a young boy Bob.

The family was first mentioned around 1888 and the company travelled around Australia and New Zealand until about 1907 when their names seem to fade from the record.

Maribel was one of the older daughters, she worked for George Rignold in Australia in 1890 and was praised for her stately, charming presence. For a while, the company was known as the Maribel Greenwood company and traded off her fame. Maribel, had a lovely voice and played the violin very well.

Nora acted as the company's advance agent and was rarely mentioned in reviews of the company. They spent a great deal of time in country areas of Australia and Nora occasionally got into heated arguments with local business people about bills. In April 1903, she was brought to court by an Albury hotel owner for the non payment of accomodation fees. The hotel owner won the case. Nora must have been the level headed daughter for in 1902 when her mother's dress caught on fire, Nora was the one who put out the fire and saved her mother from harm.

Roberta, real name Ruby, was the youngest of the sisters. As a child, aged 9, she wrote a book about her early life which was illustrated by her sisters.This made her quite popular with the wife of the New South Wales Governor.

Roberta worked primarily for the family company although occasionally she worked for other managers. Around 1902 she married a fellow performer called Walter Andrew Baird who she met whilst working for another manager at the Standard Theatre in Sydney. Walter joined the family company and in 1903 Roberta gave birth to twins at Castlemaine in Victoria. Later that year Walter was killed in a tragic accident on the Chute, at Manly in New South Wales.

The company is rarely mentioned in newspapers after 1907, so it is difficult to say what happened to them. However, their story is one which shows that theatre was often a family enterprise.