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The Ensemble Theatre is located at 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli, New South Walesmarker, in an old boatshed at Careening Cove. It is Australia's longest, continuously running professional theatre company and has constantly maintained the highest standards in theatrical presentation. The group started training together in 1958 and by 1960 had moved into their current location. During the refurbishment of the venue the company moved to the Playhouse in the Sydney Opera Housemarker and returned in 1984.

"Many of Australia’s favourite performers have appeared at the Ensemble Theatre including Lorraine Bayly, Simon Burke, Michael Craig, Russell Crowe, Max Cullen, David Field, Max Gillies, Nancye Hayes, Reg Livermore, Garry McDonald, Todd McKenney, Amanda Muggleton, Caroline O’Connor, Georgie Parker, Marina Prior, Kate Raison, Henri Szeps, Jack Thompson, William Zappa and international performers such as Warren Mitchell and Greta Scacchi."[1]

Ensemble Theatre History

"The Ensemble Theatre aims to produce live theatre of the highest quality that entertains, educates, enlightens and challenges. The Ensemble believes that theatre can, and should be, a civilizing influence in society."

On May 11 in 1958, a group of talented theatricals, who had been studying acting with American expatriate actor Hayes Gordon, assembled to present the first of two Sunday night performances in Cammeray Children's Library under the banner Variations on Similar Themes. The invitations to their premiere performance of a selection of Tennessee Williams' works one of the actors noted, "We haven't a name yet. Yes, we admit to training - Strasbergian, Stanislavskian, Meisnerian, Gordonian etc and we emphasise what might be referred to as the 'ensemble' values in production".

Artistic Director

Sandra Bates

Sandra Bates was appointed Governing and Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre in January 1986. She has had a long association with the theatre both on stage and as a director.

Sandra originally trained as a speech and drama teacher then completed a Pharmacy degree at Sydney University. After a brief career as a pharmacist, Sandra joined Hayes Gordon’s acting classes in 1968. She appeared in a number of plays including LUTHER, THE GINGERBREAD LADY and DEEDS for the Ensemble and in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE for the Old Tote at the Opera House (which she later directed herself at the Sydney Opera House in 2000).

Sandra also wrote the play, WHEN IN ROME, which was performed for an Australian Playwrights Season, then enjoyed four subsequent productions.

Sandra became the founding Artistic Director of the Studios Rep Theatre in 1983 and directed eight productions at the Rep before being invited to take over the position of Artistic and Governing Director of the Ensemble Theatre by its founder, Hayes Gordon on his retirement in January, 1986.

Some of the plays Sandra has directed for the Ensemble include BREL IN CABARET, THE MARGINAL FARM, SOME NIGHT IN JULIA CREEK, NEVER IN MY LIFETIME, TALKING HEADS, A SHAYNA MAIDEL, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, SINGLE SPIES, A DOLLS HOUSE, ROAD, HOPPING TO BYZANTIUM, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, MAN OF THE MOMENT (staged at the Seymour Centre), THE SEAHORSE, LIPS TOGETHER TEETH APART, THREE HOTELS, WAITING ROOMS, SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME, EMERALD CITY, THE LAST YANKEE, MR HALPERN AND MR JOHNSON, MONEY AND FRIENDS and WRONG FOR EACH OTHER. In 1997 she directed DEATH OF A SALESMAN staged at the Opera House Playhouse with Max Cullen and Lorraine Bayly as Willy and Linda Loman, which won the 1997 Most Outstanding Production Award chosen by John McCallum, senior theatre critic for The Australian newspaper. In 2008 she will re-direct this production at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre with husband and wife Sean Taylor and Jacki Weaver.

Sandra has also directed the Sydney and Queensland seasons of INTIMATE EXCHANGES, the World Premiere and commercial Australian tour of DOUBLE ACT with Barry Creyton and Noeline Brown, the national tours of DOUBLE BASS with Henri Szeps, MIXED EMOTIONS with Lorraine Bayly and two popular seasons of TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

In 1999 Sandra directed the Australian premiere of the New York play, VISITING MR GREEN by Jeff Baron starring father and son, Warren and Daniel Mitchell, which sold out and transferred to the Footbridge Theatre. She also directed the World Premiere of the first of David Williamson’s community conferencing plays FACE TO FACE, which enjoyed great critical acclaim, transferred to the Footbridge Theatre for an extended season and toured throughout regional Victoria and NSW. In 2001 she directed the World Premiere of the second installment of the trilogy A CONVERSATION which went on to tour NSW and Victoria in 2003 and directed the NSW Premiere of the final part CHARITABLE INTENT in 2006. Sandra was invited to direct FACE TO FACE and A CONVERSATION for the Perth Theatre Company, with FACE TO FACE being presented at the Brazilian Festival in 2001.

Sandra actively encourages Australian content at the theatre and each year produces at least two or three Australian productions that are often World Premieres. Recent World Premieres of new Australian productions include Australian novelist, Sue Woolfe’s stage adaptation of her award winning novel LEANING TOWARDS INFINITY, David Williamson’s FACE TO FACE, A CONVERSATION, BIRTHRIGHTS, OPERATOR and LOTTE'S GIFT the musical THE VOYAGE OF MARY BRYANT with book and lyrics by Nick Enright, Henri Szeps’ I’M NOT A DENTIST and WHY KIDS?, Don Mackay’s ACT ONE and John Misto’s SKY, GOSSAMER, THE SHOE-HORN SONATA and HARP ON THE WILLOW.

When Sandra joined the Ensemble Theatre as Governing and Artistic Director in 1986, the theatre was in debt, had no subscription season and no government funding. She re- introduced subscription seasons to the theatre and under her artistic direction the theatre is now in profit with over 10,000 subscribers, the third largest subscription base for any theatre company in Australia (after STC and MTC) and annual ticket sales of over 100,000.

In 2000, to celebrate the company’s 40 years in their Kirribilli venue, Sandra presented an enlarged season of 16 plays in four Sydney venues, at the Ensemble Theatre, The Playhouse-Sydney Opera House, The Footbridge Theatre and the SBW Independent Theatre.

Sandra’s most recent directing credits include McREELE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, BURNT PIANO, GLORIOUS!, RABBIT HOLE, TRYING, THE DRAWER BOY, CHARITABLE INTENT, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, CHAPTER TWO, OPERATOR, HUMBLE BOY, ART, BIRTHRIGHTS, THE DOCK BRIEF and AFTER THE BALL.

References

1. Ensemble Theatre Retrieved November 18, 2006 and May 15 2009.

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