ON STAGE opens at the National Library of Australia

The National Library will celebrate the performing arts in a major new exhibition opening to the public on March 4.

On Stage celebrates Australia’s love of the performing arts. The exhibition showcases cultural treasures, dynamic characters and defining moments in Australian performing arts history from the 1790s to the present day and is a poignant reminder of the vital role the performing arts industry has played in Australian cultural life.

Featuring over 180 objects, this free exhibition brings together highlights from the National Library’s extensive performing arts collections.

On Stage: Spotlight on the Performing Arts: Friday March 4 to Sunday August 7, 2022.

Highlights of the exhibition

  • The oldest printed document in Australia, a theater poster from 1796.
  • Photograph taken by Daniel Boud of Ange Sullivan, Head of Lighting at the Sydney Opera House,
  • preparing a ghost light at the Sydney Opera House during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A portrait of Sir Robert Helpmann as Oberon in an Old Vic production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • An image of Rose Quong with an ensemble cast including Laurence Olivier.
  • A costume design by Kristian Fredrikson for a 1975 production of The Revenger’s Tragedy.
  • An image of the audience at the Falls Music and Arts Festival 2007, Lorne, Victoria.
  • A poster for the 2009 Hilltop Hoods: Still Standing tour.
  • A 1945 Cole Bros Circus poster featuring ‘The Great Con Colleano’.
  • A poster for the 1958 production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler.

Quotes attributable to the Director General of the National Library of Australia, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA:

Our performers and storytellers are our escape, and having been starved of live performances for the past two years, shining a spotlight on the performing arts is a way to recognize the fun they bring to our lives.

You may not think of the National Library when you recall the band poster you had on your bedroom wall as a teenager, but the objects and moments captured in our performing arts collections are huge.

Quotes attributable to the curator of the exhibit and curator of the Rare Books and Music Library, Dr. Susannah Helman

The library’s performing arts collections show just how much Australians love live performances. As a huge fan of live performances of all kinds, I thought I knew the history of Australian performing arts, but our collections opened my eyes to the cultural life Australians of the past might have known.

The library’s performing arts collections are overwhelming and only a selection can be viewed. In the exhibition I tried to represent key moments, productions and performers from our history, to give context to today’s performing arts scene.


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