Scope and Contents
This collection consists of a set of fragmentary committee minutes; a larger collection of financial records; correspondence and miscellaneous papers; subject files including proposals, reports, personnel details and reviews; publicity material such as programmes and fliers; photographs taken for both casual and publicity purposes; and videos of Theatre Workshop and outside productions. The surviving material is heavily weighted towards the late 1990s and 2000-2001.
Biographical / Historical
The University of Auckland Theatre Workshop, formerly the Auckland University Drama Society and the Auckland University College Dramatic Club, was the University’s main drama group and one of the oldest and largest clubs on campus. During the 1990s, Theatre Workshop’s main activity was presenting its flagship production, the outdoor Summer Shakespeare play, which had been staged since 1963 with few interruptions. Most of the material in this collection relates to this annual event; however, a smaller portion relates to productions of The Crucible (1996), The Elephant Man (1997), and Fringe Festival activities. Copies of Robert Leek’s brief history and critique of Summer Shakespeare productions up to 1992 are in Item 1 and in the correspondence files.
The primary purpose of Theatre Workshop was to provide training and practical experience for its members, largely drawn from the student body. External directors and actors were often engaged for the major productions, but the organisation was largely driven by the enthusiasm and originality of its aspiring student thespians and crew. Luminaries linked with Summer Shakespeare from its earliest days included Professors Sydney Musgrove, John Reid and Nicholas Tarling. Michael Hurst, Simon Prast, Raymond Hawthorne and Elizabeth McRae had also been associated with the production in earlier years, and many future theatre professionals acted or were involved in some capacity with Theatre Workshop activities. The 1990s saw highly-praised presentations of The Crucible (directed by Gabriel Reid) and Twelfth Night (Maya Dalziel), as well as, notably, a Pacific Island Romeo and Juliet (1992), a highly successful A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), and, in 2000, dual productions of The Taming of the Shrew and Henry V.
By the late 1990s, reduced student participation and financial strains were beginning to show. The 1998 production of Coriolanus, despite being artistically successful, suffered from the Auckland power crisis and (possibly) the public’s relative unfamiliarity with the play. From 1999, Theatre Workshop cooperated with Stage Two Productions, a recently-formed University group, to stage Summer Shakespeare, and by 2001 the venerable society began the disbanding process. Stage Two continues to exist on campus as a university drama group and stage the annual Summer Shakespeare production.