Early Adventures in Australian Actor Training

Presented by: Dr Chris Hay

Date: Friday 25 March 2022
Time: 12–1pm
Location: (Hybrid) in-person in the SCA Writer's Studio (Level 6, Michie Building) and Online via Zoom 


It is a truth universally acknowledged that the establishment of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) on the campus of the University of New South Wales in 1958 marked the beginning of institutional actor training in Australia. Even the multiple distractions on this path – the last-minute renaming, the relocation from Melbourne to Sydney – are oft-cited. But like all origin myths, the fabled story of NIDA’s foundation has grown in stature to obscure the false starts, unrealised proposals, and “performance nonevents” (in Pannill Camp’s evocative phrase) that pre-date it. 

Indeed, in August 1947, the University of Melbourne officially approved the development of a Diploma of Dramatic Art. The Diploma was a truly unusual development for the time, as the Board of Studies mandated the inclusion of practical work in speech training, movement and mime, and acting. The University’s courses in Dramatic Art, though, never came to fruition; its novelty may well have been its downfall. In this paper, I will use the unrealised Dramatic Art model at the University of Melbourne to complicate the pre-history of institutional actor training in Australia. 


Chris Hay is an ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Theatre History in the School of Communication & Arts at the University of Queensland. Chris’s research into the history of Australian training has appeared in Australasian Drama StudiesAbout Performance, the Journal of Australian Studies, and Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, for which he recently edited a Special Issue on Performer Training in Australia (vol. 12, no. 3, 2021).


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 24 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

Fire Futures: codesigning for resilience

Dr Skye Doherty

Friday, 31 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

From Fatigue Studies to Burnout: A Brief History of Work Exhaustion

A/Prof Elizabeth Stephens