QTC Behind the Scenes at the Queensland Theatre Company

QTC: Behind the Scenes

With special thanks to Arthur Frame, QTC Production Manager for many years, who assisted greatly in preparation of this page.


Alan EdwardsI’ll never forget Monday, 17th of November, 1969 when I walked into the SGIO Theatre and was shown an office that contained a table, a chair and an internal telephone. Around me were three other empty offices which were, I was told, the rest of the QTC administration offices.

I remember my first decision was to go out and buy typing paper, carbon, pencils, rubbers, the usual paraphernalia an office requires .. Fortunately, I had my own portable typewriter.

I wish you could see the offices now; a hive of highly creative and skilled people with sophisticated office equipment all helping to keep the company moving smoothly.

Years later hundreds of people have worked with us in all sorts of jobs; as actors, writers, designers, directors, choreographers, costume makers, property makers, carpenters, receptionists… the list goes on. All have contributed to the company and I’m grateful to every one of them.

They have helped to make the Queensland Theatre Company one of the top companies in Australia; a company in which I believe the people of Queensland can take great pride.

Alan Edwards Signature

Any vibrant theatrical community, developing first class live entertainment, requires a careful balancing act between three equally important elements critical to every season in every production … Creative, Administration and Production… this page remembers and honors the latter two from the Queensland Theatre Company.

All are artisans and theatrical practitioners in their own way, be it creatively financing, planning, selling, managing or bringing to life a designers vision… In the theatrical world, all of this is unique and often without any templates or historical reference.

Alan Edwards leadership perfectly embodied this balancing act recognizing these three distinct skill sets that made up the success of the company.

During the first two decades of the Queensland Theatre Company, separate from it’s incredible pool of onstage talent, musicians, choreographers and writers, it established, enhanced, developed and expanded a very strong centralized administration with a dedicated production workshop, bringing together the departments of carpentry, painting, props, wardrobe and lighting under a single roof.

QTC Behind the Scenes Workshop Plan

Nearly everything was manufactured at the 1,788 square metre workshop at Precision Street, Salisbury a southern area of Brisbane.

QTC Behind the Scenes Hire Department BrochureThe workshop space also housed the hire departments of lighting, props and wardrobe. By hiring inventory assets the QTC assisted professional and amateur theatre companies, schools, clubs and individual hirers whilst maximizing QTC resources and thus reducing dependence on Government subsidy.

In the early ’80’s, the QTC workshop employed twelve highly skilled specialist permanent artisans who manufactured not only the productions at the SGIO Theatre (later renamed Suncorp but referred to as SGIO throughout this page) but also all other company requirements for adult and school touring productions. The QTC also frequently provided major assistance for outside companies – for example, wardrobe staff made ninety costumes for the Lyric Opera’s inaugural season of LA BELLE HELENE.

Extensive pre-planning.

Many months prior to staging, designers create exact replica models and scale working drawings which are used by directors, builders and scenic artists to create the finished product. The designers also provide detailed costume and props drawings as a guide for QTC artisans in those departments.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Admin) QTC Production Manager Arthur Frame at his desk in the Salisbury WorkshopUnder the leadership of Production Managers, scenery was built, assembled and painted in the workshop then dismantled into small components for transportation (typically by Rocklea Carriers trucking company) to the theatre on semi-trailers. It was then re-assembled on the stage in less than a day to allow the production staff and actors sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the set before opening.

Working long overnight, lighting instruments would be hung, patched into dimmer racks, and then each lamp would have it’s gel frame and color fitted, then be focussed to the designers needs, and wardrobe would arrive with costumes steamed and distributed to the dressing rooms.

In its heyday of the 1970’s/80’s, the QTC workshop would manufacture as many as 17 productions in a year, often incorporating materials recycled from previous productions. Indeed as an example, in 1981 the Queensland Theatre Company was powering along doing 18 productions: 7 mainstage productions in its season at the SGIO Theatre, 1 outdoors in Albert Park, 2 separate touring shows, ANNIE doing a Queensland state tour and return season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, 3 Theatre in Education productions plus the launch of QTC Tangent Productions with another 3 productions.

We honor the Production Managers Don Batchelor Alan Colegrave Arthur Frame AM Peter Kaukas Dennis Law Graeme McCoubrie John Watson and Production Secretaries Vicki Birch Yvette (Capt) O’Brien and Myra Terry.

Set & Costume Design

QTC Behind the Scenes (Design) Resident Designer James Ridewood in SGIO Design studio circa 1980Located high above the upper lobby at the SGIO Theatre was a small, naturally lit studio space whose walls were covered in shelving, stacked with set models of previous shows. Between the shelves, largely attached to the concrete walls with bluetack of various renderings of set & costume designs along with blueprints of QTC history.

Huddled over large benches, often found with a tiny paintbrush or scalpel in hand, was, for many years, the resident designer (and QTC associate artist) James Ridewood along with his assistant Bill Shannon working on future show designs that may be months away.

It is from the studio, and other similar studios belonging to the likes of Graham McLean, Peter Cook, Bill Haycock, Cliff Simcox, Bruce Auld, Fiona Reilly or Mike Bridges where designs were conceptualized and prepared for review by the shows Directors, QTC Artistic Director, Production Management, and others.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Design) TWELFTH NIGHT (1972 QTC) press article about designer Cliff SimcoxThere was always at least one Resident Designer but Guest Designers were frequently employed to lighten the load. Cliff Simcox, was appointed QTC’s first Resident Designer. He had also been a pioneer of design in Theatre-In-Education and had additionally been responsible for most of the QTC’s graphic arts design in its early days used for posters and programs.

Once the design for a particular show sets and costume concept had been cost estimated and approved, a full color design rendering of the set plus each costume would be prepared while a detailed set model would also be constructed.

Costume sketches often include tiny fabric swatches to guide the fabricators towards the right materials. The sketches themselves often showcase a particular actor (if already cast) or most certainly a particular character envisioned by discussions between the shows Director and the Designer.

These costume renderings often assisted and guided an actor towards development of his/her characterization.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Design) Designers Peter Cooke and James Ridewood in 1982These designs from the creative brains of incredible design talents formed the basis of the visual look and feel of every QTC show.

Sometimes, particularly for larger productions, a separate costume and set designer may collaborate.

Once all of the set designs have been approved (if a musical, may involve a dozen different scenes), a draftsman was often brought in to work with the designer to create the series of engineering detailed blueprints that production management will utilize in having the carpenters, the props staff, and wardrobe start the fabrication process.

The set model would be carefully shuttled back-and-forth between the shows Director who would use it to visualize the potential blocking for a particular scene, and the workshop staff who would use it to visualize the blueprints to aid the construction.

Full color set renderings would be used by the painters to test out both color schemes and methodology to decorate the set, which often included the entire stage floor. These renderings became much sought after pieces of artwork after shows, each in their own way, a unique and vivid memory of a particular show, and typically, very theatrically artistic with use of color and light.

Lighting designers would utilize both the model and the renderings well before arrival in the theatre to establish and create a visual look for the show that aligns with the directors vision.

Stage Management would review the set model to work out potential backstage blocking issues, scene changes and get a feeling, prior to first day of rehearsal where the cast would be taken through the design of the show with the model.

Until a particular shows set is designed, constructed, painted and assembled on stage, it is these models and design renderings that are utilized by the creative teams to plan the show, financial management to fund the show, production management to cost out and build the show, stage management to operate the show, and by the artisans and craftsman to bring them to life in the workshops. All working collectively to ensure audiences see the fruits of the design labor in all of its glory, and that the actors can work in the best and safest of environments.

Sometimes the designer is tasked with designing the entire theatre setting, including seating layout and lighting/sound hanging positions/methods, in conjunction with Production Management, for example, the inaugural production in Albert Park of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM designed by Peter Cooke, and in 1981 AS YOU LIKE IT  designed by James Ridewood.

The entire set design, stage and venue itself had to be designed for these massive productions amongst the trees and on grassy slopes.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Design) HELLO, DOLLY! (1982) Press Article about designers QTC Behind the Scenes (Design)JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK (1973 QTC) press article on designer Lindsay McGarrity QTC Behind the Scenes THE CIRCLE (1981 QTC) costume designer Graham Maclean with actress Christine O’ConnerQTC Behind the Scenes (Design) ANNIE Costume Designer Graham Maclean and Set Designer James Ridewood

We honor the imaginative designers John Anderson Bruce Auld Mike Bridges Andrew Carter Greg Clarke Timothy Clark Dr Peter Cooke AM Stephen Curtis William Dowd Paul Edwards Gregory Gesch Stephen Gow Shaun Gurton Jann Harris Silver Harris Bill Haycock John Heywood Beverley Hill Lorraine Hillard Beverley Ann Jansen Richard Jeziorny Edie Kurzer Lindsay Megarrity Graham Maclean Jamie Maclean Robby Nason Gillian Page-Lee Peter Penwarn James Ridewood Fiona Reilly John Senczuk Cliff Simcox Alan Stewart Neil Tapner Lesley Thelander Tony Tripp Randy Vellacott Kate Wall Duncan Wass and the designers assistants Kristin Reuter and Bill Shannon.

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Carpentry and Painting

QTC Behind the Scenes (Carpentry) Craftsmen in the construction workshop preparing sets for THE TAMING OF THE SHREWLocated inside the workshop, taking up nearly half of the entire workshop, the carpentry area maintained it’s own wood store, along with a recycling inventory of elements in a mix of columns, fences, stairs, railings, revolves, risers and flats.

Adjacent was the paint shop where scenic drops and set pieces would be painted.

The carpentry area had 2 large loading docks making it easy for trucks to deliver and drop off.

A variety of circular saws, drills, workbenches were carefully placed around the are to maximize the space. The sound of the machines working on carpentry, mixed with the smell of sawdust, glue and paint permeating the area created a uniquely distinctive creative wonderland.

For early productions in the Albert Park, commencing in 1979 with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, an added complexity was the carpentry and scenic painters building everything with wind resistant and waterproof materials in an open public grassy park with uneven ground surfaces, a short timeline of access, and during variable weather conditions.

QTC Behind the Scenes A Midsummer Nights Dream (QTC 1979) construction in Albert Park

QTC Behind the Scenes A Midsummer Nights Dream (QTC 1979) company on the set in Albert Park 01The carpentry teams had to bring in all materials, build the theatre, the dressing rooms, the stage and the sets and Production Management rented power generators, toilets, box office and seats for these massive productions all set inside their own security fenced perimeter with steel mesh which was then covered in hessian to ensure everyone paid for a ticket to view the production. This also had the added benefit of creating a windbreak for the audience. Pyrotechnics involved very sensitive negotiations with nearby hospitals and neighbors.

The scenic painters would work on scenic drops or set pieces adjacent to the carpentry area in the workshop, with the set design full color renderings typically laying on the floor to use as their guide to interpret best colors and visual paint treatment for a particular piece. The Set Designer would regularly visit to check and assist these visual interpreters.  Various theatrical paint techniques were used to “break down” a piece to make it look older, or a particular pigment blend to best capture the light and focus.

We honor the scenic construction team including the head carpenters Howard Steele and David Tanner plus the carpenters Geoff Bielefeld Cornelis Boogaart Ken Clarke Des Dougan Fred Driver Stan Fritsch Allan Maguire Chas Morris Peter Sands David Tanner Gary Vaughan-Wilson and Peter Vosiliunas plus the talented scenic painters Caroline Gyucha Paul Marriott and Kathleen O’Brian

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Spread out throughout the workshop, thousands, if not tens of thousands of hand props were stored on rows of floor to ceiling steel shelving, located inside a large lockable cage in the center of the workshop… Nearby was row upon row of chairs, thrones, wheelchairs, bed-frames, sofas, church pews, desks, tables, rugs and grandfather clocks between the wardrobe area and the rest of the workshop. Even a realistic full sized Egyptian sarcophagus able to conceal an actor stood guard.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Props) James Pearce Spray painting a prop for THE TAMING OF THE SHREW QTC Behind the Scenes (Props) SALONIKA (1985 QTC) construction workshop with Gary Cameron

These props were utilized in multiple ways from multiple shows, and were also available for hire.

The props master had a small desk inside the props cage, keeping track of inventory, but typically he would be found near carpentry, creating, fabricating, or painting new props that would be utilized in forthcoming shows.

QTC Behind the Scenes SIGNAL DRIVER (1983 QTC) model piece Design by Mike Bridges Model built by Kristin ReuterFriendly, and sometimes funny negotiations (often as hallway conversations) would occur monitored by Production Management on which elements would be considered props, set or costumes.  For example, a necklace worn may be a costume piece, but if carried on stage and then placed around a neck, may be a prop.  Similarly, a bench on a set model may be scenic if attached to a platform or riser, but would be a prop if it is mobile. Royal crowns were almost always props, yet wardrobe staff would often look after them in dressings rooms as part of a costume.  Departments had fuzzy lines, yet nobody complained and all accepted the best action.

Stage management would take control of the purchasing of new props that were simple to buy, and manage the props tables at the theatre which were backstage on each side of the stage. These tables would be marked out often with a shadow outline of a particular prop that would be used by cast members on stage left and stage right and so at a glance you would know what was missing.  This layout and consistency also helped actors always being able to find their props quickly and easily for a particular scene.

One of the more interesting props that have been made specifically for the show was a cutthroat razor used by the character of Salieri played by Alan Edwards in AMADEUS to cut his own throat 8 times a week. This was actually cleverly engineered tool made of a syringe and small rubber eye dropper that would be filled with fake stage blood by stage management prior to each show, and then the actor would simply squeeze the handle for blood to appear as if he is cutting his throat.

stage weaponsSwords for battle scenes would have two variations… A wooden sword to be used in rehearsal that pretty well guaranteed it was safe and not going to hurt anybody as the fight directors would plot out an action sequence. A more realistic looking sword, that was often fabricated of aluminum or steel that would have extremely dull edges and often a tiny little ball soldered to its tip to minimize the possibility of an actor being hurt. Rifles, such as the 303’s used in BREAKER MORANT, had their firing pins removed and barrel soldered for extra safety.

Large yet ultralight serving trays to be used by dancing waiters in HELLO, DOLLY! had secret handles attached to the underside for when the waiters would perform somersaults and backflips. Fake and yet very realistic food was piled in boxes. Royal crowns and goblets of every period stacked high.

It was a wondrous world inside the props cage that felt like you were in a giant antique showroom… But in reality, most of it was made of plaster of paris, fiberglass, rubber or a variety of plastics.

We honor the props artisans and wizards of illusion Gary Cameron Tim Fulford David McCrudden Kevin McLean David Palm Paul Parkinson James Pearce Kristin Reuter Michael Schroeder John Williams Mike Wormald Darryl McLoughlin

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QTC Behind the Scenes AS YOU LIKE IT Wardrobe Sewing with Kerry Yates and Thelma CopeLocated inside the workshop prior to relocation of fabrication to the Queen Street building, which by being downtown in Brisbane was much more convenient for fittings etc… Stage Management would typically shuttle designers and actors back and forth between rehearsal rooms and the wardrobe facility for costume fittings.

The wardrobe department had 2½ distinct areas — the hire section which has row upon row of all past costumes, a fabrication section with tables for cutting and sewing surrounded by bolts of cloth, designs, buckets of buttons and zippers. The ½? …that would be the area designated for fittings, with lots of mirrors, a small changing room and comfy sofa for actors.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Costumes) RQTC Wardrobe Department 1990 at the Queen Street building with Greg Clarke and Kate StewartDuring the Golden Years, thousands of costumes would be fabricated, be it from the Salisbury workshop or the Queen Street building.  Augmenting this, common costumes, such as men’s suits or modern garments may be sponsored in favor of program credits, rented or purchased.

Similarly jewelry worn, shoes, belts and most hats would be purchased.

QTC Behind the Scenes A sample of a QTC costume tagEvery costume piece owned by QTC would have a special label sewn into it, designating its original show, character and actor, plus subsequent re-use.

During performance runs of shows, in the theatre, the wardrobe department would assign staff as dressers to help with actors quick changes and to manage laundry / dry cleaning / cleaning of all costumes. For some shows, where there was no time for an actor to get up to their dressing room, a quick change booth would be set up in the stage wings, typically made or rod and drape with a mirror and dim blue light.

Tenth Anniversary Costume Parade Cover (1980 QTC) Sunday Mail Tenth Anniversary Costume Parade Cover (1980 QTC) Sunday Mail pg 2 Tenth Anniversary Costume Parade Cover (1980 QTC) Sunday Mail pg 3 Tenth Anniversary Costume Parade Cover (1980 QTC) Sunday Mail pg 4

We honor the incredible team of artisans and caretakers known as wardrobe staff including Wardrobe Supervisors Patricia Allen Cynthia Bowen Heather Brown Danny Healy Jenny Hurley Jay Mansfield-Askew Gayle MacGregor Marie Perry-Watson and Nelda Strydom, along with the costumers Steven Billet Heather Brown Ken Bushby Byron Clayton Thelma Cope Sarah Elizabeth Meredith Fogg Jo Forsyth Marianne Frederiksen Merrin Glasgow Gail Gunn Jo Hardie Jane Harrison Lesa Hepburn Lorraine Hillard Caroline Hullock Jane Hyland Jenny Kants Caroline Keene Karen Litzow Anne Long Robyn Martin Pamela Martin Arlie McGill Shane Neisler Heather Noble Margaret Reeves Luke Roberts Anne Maree Spratt Nelda Strydom Kate Vosiliunas Terry Walduck Lexie Wright and Kerry Yates plus long serving costumer Dawn Grieg who also managed the Wardrobe and Wigs Hire.

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QTC Behind the Scenes (Lighting) SGIO Theatre (Brisbane) & Lighting InstrumentLighting plays a very important role in the stage performance, through it, Lighting Designers make the actor more impressive, highlighting the given theme of artistic creation in a particular performance of the entire stage.

Back then, Lighting Designers had dimmers, a limited supply of lighting instruments and a whole lot of passion. Back then it was people’s fingers moving faders. This was all of course, before robotic moving light instruments and computerized control systems.

lighting stencilThe collaborative skills needed to work with a team of directors, costume and set designers proved essential.  QTC lighting plots would be drawn, similar to the scenic blueprints, using plastic outline stencils to designate a globally accepted icon for a particular lamp, marking hanging positions, numbering of instruments for patch, plus gel information.  A good Set Designer and Director could get a rough idea of intended focus from this.  Then instrument patch sheets would be created, working out how cable are run and where they are plugged in.

Every show was unique yet the main role (and process) of lighting never changed…. it would be to help the audiences to clearly see the scene while guiding the audience eyes towards highlighting part of performance amongst exaggerating the atmosphere of a specific environment, making the actors role impressive, while transforming time and space in eyeshot of the audience.

lighting instrumentThe QTC almost entirely used a series of ‘static’ light types: Ellipsoidal, Fresnel, Follow-spot, PAR, Borderlights and Cyclorama strips.  All instruments that hung above the stage of in the auditorium would typically require a combination of gel frames (to insert color of various gel colors sheets cuts to size), barn doors (to assist in giving a shaper edge to the beam of light), gobo’s inserted in some for casting special effect patterns and literally hundreds of miles of cables stretching from the instrument to patching bay dimmer racks to control positions.  Ladders would be used to access each lighting instrument, often with electricians working high above the stage without todays bevy of safety equipment.

lighting gobosIt would typically take a couple of overnight work calls to initially “pre-hang” lights, and run cables prior to scenery arrival, then once scenery is setup, another overnight to manually point and focus and color and barndoor each instrument using members of stage management as “walkers” on the stage floor anticipating positions of actors to enable to Lighting Designer to visualize and tweak the beams of light.  After this arduous process, the Lighting Designer would work with the operator (generally an SGIO employee electrical) to establish a sequence of cues in the show plot, along with speed of fading in an out, and the time each would take.  During the process, the Stage Manager would make notations in the prompt script to prepare for calling the show. The Director would sit next to the Lighting Designer throughout this process to approve, guide or change some elements.

A few hours later, actors would come on stage to run through the show on the set with lighting and scene changes, and after this process, often the Lighting Designer would make more tweaks during dress rehearsals and the lunch and dinner breaks.

It was a long and arduous process, despite being physically and creatively essential, rarely appreciated by many, and repeated for every show.

We honor the lighting designers and unsung technicians who literally were the princes of light and shadow including Lighting Designers Victor Ashelford John Beckett Donn Byrnes Pam Collings Tony Everingham Jamie Henson Nigel Levings Graeme McCoubrie David McCrudden Kenneth Rayner David Read Peter Shoesmith Geoff Street Stephen Terry Paddy Teuma David Walters John Watson David Whitworth and Tony Youlden plus the Lighting Operators / Electricians including Les Alberts Peter Baynes Bernadette Cochrane David Lee David Malacari Christine Platzer and Murray Wright

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Stage Management

At the Queensland Theatre Company, the Stage Manager, and the Director had a very special relationship… The Director typically empowered and trusted the Stage Manager to be their right arm, and became the eyes and ears of the company foreseeing problems before they happen, and finding solutions quietly.

Stage management were responsible for scheduling rehearsals in conjunction with the Director and other creative team members to ensure that the company of actors got maximum rehearsal time. Depending on the size and scale of the show, rehearsals were conducted in downtown rooms on Elizabeth Street, at the SGIO Theatre, St. Mary’s Church Hall at Kangaroo Point and other venues or for larger shows at the Cloudland ballroom.

Stage management would typically ‘tape out’ the full scale set and theatre stage layout on the floor of the rehearsal room to give guides to actors for where to move and where their physical constraints were. For a musical with multiple scenes, this often meant multiple colored tapes, a different color representing each scene, which became this giant confusing kaleidoscope of color on the floor based on the complexity of the design.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Props) HENRY V (1984 QTC) Stage Manager Linday Fairman preparing props in rehearsal roomRehearsal furniture, including rehearsal steps and platform risers would be brought into the rehearsal room by stage management to help actors with physical obstructions. Similarly, rehearsal props would be under the purview of stage management, who would often liaise with the prop master to deploy a second set of prop pieces.

For large shows such as the Albert Park Shakespearean productions, an additional member of stage management would be added to the team in the capacity of Deputy Stage Manager (DSM), who would be responsible for managing the “bible” (the prompt book), notating all blocking and choreography, and all cues for lighting, sound, music and special effects. The DSM in Albert Park would typically ‘call the show’ from a specially built scaffolding tower at the rear of the auditorium leaving the Stage Manager free to be in control of the stage deck and backstage with support from at least one, and often two Assistant Stage Managers (ASM).

Typically stage management were additionally tasked with all operations of sound for a given show… This may involve recording voices, identifying sound effects, such as car horns, rain, wind, glass shattering, selecting fanfares for a Shakespearean play, and other types of sound effects plus background ambient noise as required by the Director. Long nights would often be spent at ABC Radio Studios on Coronation Drive, going through sound effects libraries and usually recording these onto reel to reel tapes.

reel to reel playerThe reel to reel playback was then used in both rehearsal room, and in the theatre itself plugging into the venue sound system, and being operated, backstage by an ASM. Cutting and splicing reel to reel tapes became an extraordinarily delicate skill and often raised blood pressure as we were always concerned about the tape snapping, breaking, slipping, sliding, slowing, or speeding up during the performance of a show. Sometimes, when sound was so critical to a particular production, such as AMADEUS, an ASM may be dedicated to sound operation and a 2nd ASM brought in to handle the rest of the duties.

animalsMany QTC productions also had live animals, which typically also fell under the purview of stage management. Be it chickens, goats, sheep, piglets, ducks, donkeys, horses or dogs the ASM would often become an additional animal wrangler, animal feeder and animal poop cleaner-upper.

There was no budget, however there was necessity, for small basic first aid kits and stationary essentials… Often stage management would purchase these things out of their own pockets and put them into a fishing tackle box just in case of an emergency, or if needed by an actor in rehearsal. By final night of a show, the boxes would often be empty.

Stage management would often use tricks (aka subliminal bribes), such as purchasing a Director or actors favorite lollies or cigarettes or beverages, and have them on hand for when things started getting heated up in a rehearsal room.

Sunday Mail Understudy Karen Crone (1984 QTC)Depending on the show and its Director, Stage Management would also conduct understudy rehearsals while the show is rehearsing the primary cast.  Often, Stage Management would coordinate an understudy ‘showcase’ after the show opens, giving an opportunity for the understudies opportunity to showcase their talents.

Stage management also did coffee runs, specialty food runs for stars (such as sourcing a macrobiotic meal supplier for Keith Michell), and various shuttling of actors and creatives between rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, the theatre and their homes, and picking up things in their own cars for which they were able to recover expense at $0.12 per mile or utilizing the old company “white van”, if available.

QTC Show SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY (1982 QTC) [press] article Toby Simkin head shaveOften for budgetary considerations, members of stage management might take on minor acting roles or understudy in a particularly production. This was a great way to garner more experience by treading the boards. Since stage management already fell under the jurisdiction of the Actor’s Equity union, its made the approval to perform very easy, despite the personal challenges to the individual stage manager such as what I did in SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY for John Krummel.

QTC Behind the Scenes RQTC Stage Manager advertisment for 1985From scheduling to rehearsal management to assisting directors to comforting those that needed stroking of their egos, to calming nerves, providing personal security for big stars of the time like Mark Lee, to operating sound, filling out reports, attending meetings and calling shows, stage management filled the void to do anything and everything that nobody else had the time or inclination to do.

Many of QTC stage management went on to bigger and greater things based on incredible diversity of work experience they each had and we honor the diverse and talented stage management Vito Arena Victor Ashelford Paul Atthow Brian Barnes Bruce Bolton Sandy Bowman Russell Boyd David Brindley Gary Cameron Eileen Clelland Margaret Crompton Louise Cullinan Annette Downs Lindsay Fairman Steven Ford Trevlyn Gilmour David Glinster David Gration Richard (Rick) Harrison Cathy Healy Jamie Henson Chris Heron Libby Higgin Louise Hucks Sussanne Humphries Ben Jansen Glenda Johnson Timothy Jones Ellen (Lenny) Kennedy Dave Laing Peter Lavery Kathyrn Lloyd Rick Harrison Mark Lloyd Hunt Owen MacDonald Richard Mackay-Sollay Caroline Mackie Kim Mahler David McCrudden Barry Melville Andrew Molock Ric Moore Reg Murphy Kit Oldfield Ruth Owens lan Perkins Rowan Pryor Peter Reeve Kristin Reuter Jody Robb Ric Mackay-Scollay Cate Sharp Peter Shoesmith Toby Simkin David Spiller Oliver Sublette Rodney Therkelsen Scott Thiele Patrick Whelan Jullianne White John Williams and Colin Wilson

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Sales & Marketing

QTC 1983 AD 8236 SubscribersAs the QTC established itself the audience base grew, thanks to a clever subscription program supported by large team of volunteers, the unique introduction of the Wednesday morning matinee with 100% attendances and a gutsy programming model including both commercial lineup of annual musicals, Shakespeare, famous dramas, along with Australian plays and occasionally edgy (for its time and place) picks, the QTC developed its audience base, often to the annoyance of some.

Guiding the ticket sales for much of the Golden Years was Lewis Savage, who used a variety of methods to sell tickets, advertising, direct mail and subscription which in it’s heyday of the golden years ticket subscriptions reached an incredible 10,000 patrons.

A big problem Brisbane had in those days, was its great weather. Particularly in the early days as Brisbanites did not understand what a professional level theatre experience was, and their experience of entertainment community events at the time largely centered around drinking and sports, which would typically occur in the afternoons when it was sunny in a somewhat tropical day. This became a problem that sales and marketing had to overcome and how to convince people to get out of a sunny day and go into an air-conditioned box.

SGIO Ad: a theatre of distinction, and fully air-conditioned!A clue to the importance of the weather is in the SGIO theatre’s own early, branding and advertising of itself… Where the byline was “a theatre of distinction, and fully air-conditioned!”. A sales consideration essentially was get potential audiences out of the tropical, sweaty weather, and be guaranteed a cooler, air-conditioned several hours, along with a bar, with entertainment that is socially acceptable if not thrilling.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Marketing) GENESIS (1977 QTC Darling Downs) making postersSet and Costume designer Cliff Simcox had been responsible for most of the QTC’s graphics for marketing materials until his departure. This concept of in-house art design for marketing materials continued ad-hoc for 15 years, including on TIE projects.  This made the QTC artwork hip and theatrical, and more likely to help position a particular show in the right context.

The QTC used its existing audiences to soft sell future tickets through its self-published theatre program, advertising, events and advertorial to create our own mass marketing. All began recognizing that if you have 600 people on opening night, you have 600 pairs of eyeballs looking at a theatre program in a controlled environment to be able to excite and motivate future sales. Encourage those 600 people to tell another 600 people about how great that particular show is, all while encouraging that ticket buyer to promote future show ticket sales to their friends.

In the days before the internet, before social media, before handheld computers, selling out 600 seats per show, for eight shows a week, and dare I say it, in sleepy hollow Brisbane at the time, involved very creative thinking knowing well that you were going to receive very little, if any, support from print, radio and television on an editorial basis unless you made the story yourself and made it compelling for sports loving, beer-swilling people to want to know more.

Print advertising was customized in each advertisement, and typically introduced upcoming shows, announced star performers, encouraged subscriptions and group sales, informed the public and often maintained an ongoing dialog with audiences (what today we call stickiness), in a fun way.

This was the first time I began to understand “advertorial” where, without budget, get the media to spread your word for you, for free.

Finding stories amongst the mundane of situations, proved the expertise of Ken Kennett, and his publicity team. It helped greatly, that he had been with QTC as an actor since inception and so he understood greatly Alan‘s creative thought process and the need to stroke egos of some people and maintain an association with a relatively inadequate and sometimes hostile Queensland Press who seemed more interested in their own personal grandstanding rather than being the conscience, eyes and ears of their audiences.

On Our Selection (Brisbane) 1981 Courier Mail Ken was able to find extraordinary stories for any mundane event, and somehow was able to manipulate lazy press into bringing a photographer and writing something for publication. My own experience reveals his ability to garner multiple photo advertorials including ½ page about an actor getting his head shaved for a role, and another photo story about walking chickens for daily constitutionals outside the theatre.

Promoting future events as people were leaving the theatre with full width, very wide advertising above the audience exit doors in the SGIO lobby was a key element of promotional campaigns. The last thing audiences saw as they left one particular show was promotion for the next show.  As an example, here as audiences left the production of LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at the SGIO Theatre. they see the advertisement for THE WARHORSE.

Warhorse (QTC Queensland Theatre Company Brisbane) [Door Banner]

At the time a lot of QTC staff and actors did not understand the importance of the cheese and wine events that Ken would throw every month in the rehearsal room at the theatre… But it quickly became apparent that these were clever events to spread word-of-mouth quickly on forthcoming activities of the company at very inexpensive cost, and under the illusion that it was all about every attendee being a connected VIP to the arts pulse of Brissie while brushing shoulders with QTC stars.  The closer these guests felt to QTC, the more inclined they were to promote and encourage their friends in future shows.

The first time I ever heard the term “fill the pig”, was uttered by Lewis Savage, in an endearing way, who was constantly trying to nurture and encourage QTC staff and volunteers in selling tickets, and even more importantly, up-selling future shows via subscription.

QTC Fill The PigThe pig, of course, was the empty seating plan, and filling it were the subscription ticket sales represented by colored dots.  The reference of course, was based on the “piggy banks” at the time, common gifts to children opening bank accounts.

Used to this day in nearly all sales campaigns globally for any industry, back then, the “fill the pig” concept was very simple… It showed a series of audience seating plans with colored dots for those seats that had been sold already on a subscription basis… The more colored dots on the empty seating plan resulted in more than half a dozen shows future sales…

А stimulating innovation in 1978/1979 was the formation of the Queensland Theatre Company Guild, under the co-ordination of Magda Wollner, which promoted and assisted the Company through subscription, ticket sales and other voluntary administrative services. The Guild used these “fill the pig” seating plans as the primary motivational tool to encourage teams of volunteers to get on the phones to sell subscriptions. As a sea of dots started forming on particular performance, irrespective of which show, Magda Wollner would ring a bell obtained from props every time a large number of dots appeared in order to celebrate success of subscription sales.

Similarly, Lewis used the QTC receptionists during their downtime between managing the switchboard to fill out direct mail envelopes, write addresses, and prepare thousands upon thousands of outbound information flyers to encourage sales of performances in a subscription that may be weak.

The attrition rate of subscribers from season to season was extraordinarily low, which became a testament to the quality of entertainment / value for dollars experienced by QTC audience members.  As a result, while preparing for the next seasons result, we could anticipate we already had over 90% from the previous year.  The tiny annual loss was typically due to deaths or subscribers moving away. In the days well before computers and databases, hand-written index cards were used to track each and every subscriber, with notes and comments of all communications with them.

Subscription was an entirely brand-new concept, at the time unproven down under, and yet became possibly the most incredible success story as it relates to sales in the history of the QTC… Even today over 50 years later, subscription continues as the core method to guarantee future financial stability, and to better understand the interests of audiences.

  Hello Dolly 1982 QTC Brisbane Program Page 16 QTC Subscriptions(QTC Brisbane) [1983 Season) (QTC Brisbane) [1983 Season) [Poster]  QTC Behind the Scenes [ad] 1977 season announcementQTC Behind the Scenes A sample of a QTC tie from the late ‘70’sShowbiz Weekend to Sydney (QTC) promotional flyer Article 1981 Season (1980 QTC) Courier Mail Article 1980 The Year of the Theatre (1980 QTC) feature Telegraph part 1 Article 1980 The Year of the Theatre (1980 QTC) feature Telegraph part 2Sunday Mail At Home Party (1978 QTC)Press AD Subscription Season (1980 QTC) Press AD Subscription Season (1983 QTC)Press AD Season lineup (1984 QTC) Press Article Rush on QTC tickets (1984 QTC Tangent) Press AD Student Passport (1984 QTC) Press AD Hurry Subscrption Renewal (1984 QTC) QTC Subscription Brochure (1972 QTC) DetailQLD Cultural Diary (1984 QTC) Cover

All in all, the various magic boxes of tricks uses, and a guild working from a downtown office space, we honor Subscriptions & Ticketing guru Lewis Savage and Colin Nye, A.I.C.M., Public Relations & Publicity Officers Des Adams Bart Hosking Ken Kennett OAM Jim Martin Margaret Mackay-Payne Margaret McKenzie Forbes Christine Walsh and Jim Wright, their Publicists Bart Hosking Jim Martin and Peter Maclean, Photographers Ivan/Gloria Pierce Derrick George plus Guild Chairwoman Magda Wollner and her army of Guild volunteers including Janet Barclay Alice Beacroft L.J. Buchanan Joan Chamberlain Bobbie Glyn Evans Maureen Fallon Sonja Farmer Beryl Foote Neil Fulwood Dolores Garland Bobby Glyn Evans Lucille Gold Elaine Heath Edna Heathwood Margaret Hill Ena Huppert June Jamieson Eva Klug Irene Lefman Joan LeMass Cathryn Linedale Lucy McGrath Val Meixner Patrick Mellick Hillary Mosten Maureen Mortensen Barbara Nielsen Joyce Nixon Smith Gloria Phillips Lynne Power Vivienne Reddy Marea Reed Melina Reed Margaret Robinson Grace Reynolds June Sheedy Ann Shevill Toby Simkin Sybil Simpson Elaine Skinner Anne Smith Glen Stirrat Joan Tanner Michael Yelland and Jess Yeowart.

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Finance & Administration

QTC Meet the people behind the scenes (1980 QTC)QTC’s huge success during its “Golden Years” took a team.  By modern day standards it was a very lean, hard working dedicated team of theatrical devotees that under the leadership of Alan Edwards, ignored formal job descriptions in favor of getting the shows up, at the best possible quality to appeal to audiences.

Any number of people deserve tribute, not the least the industrious members of the Board and the hard working executive and production staff.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Admin) Alan Edwards (seated on right, second from far end) and the QTC Board (1978)At Board level the guidance, Government negotiations and community influence inaugurated by Sir David Muir was continued by his successor, W.R.J. Riddel. The Board members additionally maintained a healthy and active contact with the members of the staff and casts, and vice versa.

Two members of the executive staff – indeed at the beginning they WERE the executive staff – John Watson and Gillian Coar had seen the QTC through many vicissitudes.

QTC Behind the Scenes A sample of a QTC pin from the late ‘70’sDuring his seven years as Production Manager, John Watson was responsible for the soaring growth of QTC’s technical resources, from a humble work-bench to a thriving enterprise building out a dedicated workshop.

Gillian Coar, the Executive Officer as well as Secretary to the Board, was the one member of the staff to have worked from the beginning for 2 decades. During this time she handled any number of bizarre inquiries and unusual chores.

During the Golden Years, income was reliant on box office, subsidy and audience fundraising.  Expenses were tight, with physical production costs being extraordinarily low.  It took creative thinking and recycling concepts by designers and production management to bring high levels of production within tight budgets.

QTC 1982 Income & Expense

The QTC belonged to a much larger national arts community. In 1981, a ‘National Stage Crisis Day’ was held with a rally and march by major QTC stars including Diane Cilento to show support for the arts and concern for Federal Funding Cuts in Queensland (and nationally). In 1982, the QTC suffered a 20% Federal Funding cut-back.

Fundraising campaigns were annual events, with QTC utilizing its subscriber bases as a loyal army to assist.  Senior staff examined different ways to raise money, including Ken Kennett spending 5 weeks in the USA visiting 14 theatre, ballet and opera companies in 1982 on a quest to find new ways of fundraising.

Due to its partially government funded status, and the need by QTC executives for planning accordingly, a huge amount of financial reporting and forecasting was required — long range planning, fiscal year forecasting, individual production reporting, budgeting and fundraising requirements, plus balancing the books on ticket sales, subscriptions and company expenses, all from disparate sources in different departments and all this in the days before computers, and all this done by one person – June Craw OAM, and all done keeping a smile on her face, even when hostile press write incorrect and alarming stories regarding 1978 finances, requiring letter of correction from QTC Board Chairman forcing a newspaper retraction:

Courier Mail Hall Million $ loss and retraction (1978 QTC)   Courier Mail Hall Million $ loss and retraction (1978 QTC) Riddell letter

None of the QTC’s success would have been possible without the financial assistance received from the Queensland State Government and the Commonwealth Government through the Theatre Board of the Australia Council.

QTC Behind the Scenes (Admin) QTC Executives QTC Behind the Scenes (Admin) THE TEMPEST meeting in the SGIO Administration Tea Room QTC Behind the Scenes Sample Standard Actors ContractQTC Behind the Scenes QTC Resident Director advertisment in 1978QTC Behind the Scenes [press] Theatre Australia 1977 Queensland SceneQTC 10th Anniversary Letters of Congratuations (1980 QTC)Press Queensland Attendence Figures (1980 QTC)

Located inside the SGIO administration offices, the workshop and various offices throughout the city, we honor Finance & Business Officer June Craw OAM Executive Officer Gillian Coar Fundraising Chairman Richard Magnus the administrators Des Adams Yvonne Aitken Jan Annesley Yolande Bird Susan Brazier Cheryl Buglar Yvette Capt Amanda Collins Mary Dooley Janet Hayes Judy Holland Brian Horton Marjorie Kerr Diane Leith Lynette Linning Ron Litchfield Helen Mayes plus receptionists Jan Annesley Susan Bonning Jennie Lewis Camilla Priauix Bernadette Sheahan  Toby Simkin Myra Terry along with international representatives Yolande Bird and Diana Franklin (London) Irvin Bauer Michael Menzies and Stuart Thompson (New York) and Board Chairmen Sir David Muir, CMG and later W.R.J. Riddel AM OBE along with board members Colin James Brumby Mr. L.W.H. Butts CBE Sir Walter Benjamin Campbell, AC, QC Professor P.D. Edwards, M.A., Ph.D. Lady Groom OBE Mr. Ian V. Gzell Q.C. The Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Clem Jones Mr. P. Jones The Lady Mayoress, Sylvia Ada Jones Mr. G.E. Littlewood Mr. K. C. Mackriell Professor Donald William McElwain AO, ED, FBPsS, HonFAPS Mr. J. Maher Mr. J.D. McLean Mrs S. Shubert Babette Stephens AM MBE and Miss Joan Whalley OAM. Under the patronage of the Governors of Queensland, His Excellency The Honourable Sir Alan James Mansfield KCMG KCVO (1969 – 1972) His Excellency Air Marshal the Honourable Sir Colin Thomas Hannah KCMG KCVO KBE CB (1972 – 1977) His Excellency Commodore the Honourable Sir James Ramsay KCMG KCVO CBE DSC (1977 – 1985) His Excellency The Honourable Sir Walter Benjamin Campbell AC QC (1985 – 1992).

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SGIO Theatre stageThe QTC moved into its 1st venue, the 611 seat SGIO Theatre — “a theatre of distinction, and fully air-conditioned” as it was billed, which became its residence for its Golden Years, through a renaming to Suncorp Theatre before being closed due to asbestos concerns.

Theatre Australia press March 1977 regarding QPACIn 1979, under trees in an open-air setting of Albert Park, and commencing in 1982 its Albert Park Amphitheatre became an annual outdoor highlight venue, typically large-scale Shakespearean productions utilizing the combined talents of the Queensland Theatre Company, Queensland Ballet Company, Queensland Theatre Orchestra and others.

The Edward Street Theatre became home to Brisbane’s Off-Broadway QTC Tangent Productions, the new Cremorne Theatre at QPAC once it opened in 1985, and for one season, the La Boite Theatre was used. Other venues were used from time to time.

In seemingly all venues, but particularly the SGIO Theatre, house crews (technical staff paid by the theatre itself) tended to ignore who was paying them and how much they were earning in favor of getting the show up to maximum production quality.  These technicians, mechanists and operators often worked day and night, hand-in-hand directly with the QTC production teams, making what would usually be high stress moments of load in, show running and load outs a joy.

We particularly honor the venue management and staff from the SGIO THEATRE management Don Fergusson Brian Horton Ron Litchfield Shaun O’Sullivan Alban Riley Eric Wallis Jim Wright and the Head Mechanists Geoffrey Bielefeld Ray Calcutt Ken Clarke Mark Gover Ben Jansen Tony Maher Petar Petrovich Brian Wallace with their teams of Mechanists Elaine Acworth Bruce Barker Greg Grainger David Hobbs Tony Maher Vic Schulga and Electricians Derek Campbell John Drake David Lee David Malacari Keith McLaughlan Max Shayler Patrick (Paddy) Teuma Ian Tinney plus box office staff Dallas Black Joan Bolton Kay Fifas and the SGIO theatre bar run by Rohan Woodcraft. At the ALBERT PARK THEATRE including its House Manager Wayne McKenna and Box Office manager Margo Morris, and at the EDWARD STREET THEATRE including its Manager Edwin Reif and the Box Office managers Yvette (Capt) O’Brien and Desley Agnoletto, plus from ALL VENUES the army of front of house managers, ushers, concessions staff, bartenders, cleaners, box office staff and others whose names escape me after 45+ years.

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Thanks to the combined efforts of all those above along with the actors, dancers, musicians, directors, choreographers, composers,  writers, and other staff, these indeed were the Queensland Theatre Company…

‘Golden Years’

paraphrasing Alan, each and every one of these artisans helped make the QTC one of the top theatre companies in the southern hemisphere, something that the people of Queensland and all in our Who’s Who should take great pride in, and for those who remember, we are eternally grateful.

Queensland Theatre Links


Queensland Theatre Company: QTC Golden Years 1970 1988Queensland Theatre Company: QTC Behind the Scenes of the Golden YearsQueensland Theatre Company QTC Who's Who Hall of Fame Golden Years 1970's & 1980sAlan Edwards in MemoriumQTC Tangent Productions from the Queensland Theatre CompanyQueensland Theatre Company QTC TIE Theatre In Education RoadworksSGIO TheatreBrisbane Theatre History 2022Brisbane Theatre Shows DBBrisbane Shakespeare SocietyPuppet PeopleBrisbane Actors CompanyFrame and Kennett PromotionsBrisbane Theatre Restaurants & Dinner TheatreAustralian Theatre Companies

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