The first question most people ask about Austin is: “Why ‘Austin’?” Austin is the early Anglicised version of the name ‘Augustine‘.
The curtain was brought up on what was to become the Austin Theatre Group in 1973 when a group of Old Boys from St Augustine’s put on A Man For All Seasons in a small hall in Dee Why. The show was directed by Barry Hayes, who was at that time a teacher at the school and largely responsible for initiating the strong tradition for drama that continues to this day.
For several years Old Boys who had acquired the taste for drama asked Barry to direct a series of successful productions until the time when Barry went overseas to concentrate on writing. Larry Scheid took over and mounted a mammoth production of King John at the new venue of Balgowlah Boys High School.
In 1976, due to expanding community involvement, the group set itself up in its own right, distinct from the Old Boys Association. At this time Kevin Jackson (later to become head of NIDA) took over as the artistic director of the group and produced several plays including Jean Anouilh’s Ring Round The Moon.
Over the next six years Austin became the leading drama group in the area. Several theatre professionals such as Murray Picknett and Tom Bannerman as designers and David Goddard as Artistic Director helped to gain for the group a reputation for outstanding productions that aimed to be both entertaining and thought-provoking.
At the heart of the group was a dedicated band of theatre lovers, closet Oliviers, handypersons and friends who sacrificed their time and sanity to the mad thespian obsession.
During this period Austin produced a vast range of shows from Samuel Beckett and Bertold Brecht to Neil Simon and Alan Ayckbourn. The membership grew and with it the need for a permanent performing space. Unfortunately, no such home could be found. Along with the changing lifestyles of the existing members this effectively meant the group was forced into hibernation.
In 1990 a new group of Old Boys and friends reinvigorated the spirit of Austin and performed several memorable productions including Metamorphosis by Steven Berkoff and The Suicide by Nicholai Erdman.
And now in 2021, a similar vision has been rekindled. Many of the names have changed, but the aim remains the same: quality productions of entertaining and stimulating plays.
We look forward to your support and encouragement over the years to come.