Curtain Up! Acting women talk about their lives

Curtain Up! is a visual snapshot of the Auckland theatre scene from the 1950s to the 1980s. The exhibition explores the rise of professional drama in Auckland from its grassroots in community and youth theatre.

Image: Howick Studios. Members of the Howick Little Theatre in rehearsal, August 1964. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 06723.

The exhibition is on at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library from 28 August until 24 November. This playlist compliments the exhibition, drawing on the recollections of those active in Auckland theatre development during these decades. Recordings are from an oral history collection featuring women in Auckland who worked in the acting profession, with interviews by Jean Hyland.



In this track we feature Georgia Prince from Auckland Libraries, life time actor Elizabeth McRae, esteemed playwright Roger Hall and the woman who has played every role in theatre... the irrepressible Jocelyn McQuaid! Georgia Prince provides us with an overview and background to the exhibition while Elizabeth, Roger and Jocelyn all offer their response to seeing the exhibition and discuss the importance of collecting and archiving.

Mary Amoore - Amateur theatre director

Image: John Tudehope. Portrait of Mary Amoore, 1960s. From: Mary Amoore. Central Theatre. Memoirs and photographs. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 1432.



Mary Amoore (1920 - 2010) was a key player in the development of amateur theatre across Auckland including The Little Henderson Theatre, Auckland Repertory Theatre, founder of the Central Theatre Company, and teacher and director of youth and children’s theatre.

In this track, Mary recalls her involvement in a number of early theatre groups including Auckland Repertory Theatre, The Little Henderson Theatre, and Titirangi Drama. She mentions the annual Drama Festival competitions and the shifting style of theatre production.

Recorded on 9 June, 2006: 'An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who worked in the acting profession talk about their lives'. Interview between Jean Hyland and Mary Amoore. Collection reference OH_1341_001.

Mary Amoore - Central Theatre Company

Image: Rehearsal scene for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Mary Amoore. Performed at the Central Theatre, Remuera. March 1974. From: Mary Amoore. Central Theatre. Memoirs and photographs. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 1432.



In this track, Mary talks about the changing face of theatre with the arrival of the Mercury Theatre and the growth of professional theatre. She recalls the building of the Central Theatre Company in Remuera.

Recorded on 9 June, 2006: 'An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Mary Amoore. Collection reference OH_1341_001

Read the transcript here

Elizabeth McRae – Acting and home life

Image: Unknown photographer. Portrait of Elizabeth McRae, 1960s. From: Mercury Theatre. Records. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 813.



Elizabeth McRae has been at the heart of Auckland theatre as an actor since the early 1960s. Her career has seen her front line in professional theatre, radio, television and film.

In this first track, Elizabeth tells us of her move to Auckland from Wellington and her initial involvement in theatre, juggling parenting and her work reading radio plays. She goes on to talk about the transition into professional theatre and the culture of work and childcare in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Elizabeth McRae Collection reference OH_1341_006.

Read the transcript here

Elizabeth McRae - Remembering Mercury Theatre

Image: Interior of the Mercury Theatre, from the Mercury Theatre transparency photographic collection, c1980s. From: Mercury Theatre. Records. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 813.



In this track, Elizabeth reflects on the rise and fall of professional theatre in Auckland with particular reference to the sudden closure of the Mercury Theatre in the early 1990s.

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Elizabeth McRae Collection reference OH_1341_006.

Read the transcript here

Elizabeth McRae - His Majesty's demolished

Image: Lex Kempton. Police removing demonstrators at a protest against the demolition of His Majesty's Theatre, 1988. The Sun Photographic Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1329-23.



In this track, Elizabeth briefly recalls the design of the Mercury Theatre and then details her memories of the demolition of His Majesty’s theatre 1988.

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’ Interview between Jean Hyland and Elizabeth McRae Collection reference OH_1341_006.

Read the transcript here

Elizabeth McRae - Actors Union Equity

Image: www.facebook.com/EquityNewZealand/ August 2019



In this track, Elizabeth recalls the establishment of Equity the actors Union into professional theatre in the late 1960s.

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Elizabeth McRae Collection reference OH_1341_006.

Read the transcript here

Alison Quigan - Theatre Corporate late 1970s

Image: Sourced from: https://www.playmarket.org.nz/playwrights/alison-quigan



Alison  Quigan QSM is an actress, director and playwright with a long list of achievements and contributions to theatre. Alison trained at Auckland’s Theatre Corporate Actors School in 1978 and is currently the Performing Arts Manager at Māngere Arts Centre - Ngā Tohu O Uenuku.

In this track, we hear Alison recall her beginnings in theatre life with her move to Auckland and her journey to being selected to train through the Auckland’s Theatre Corporate Actors School in 1978.  

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Alison Quigan Collection reference OH_1341_008.

Read the transcript here

Alison Quigan – Theatre in Education

Image: Theatre in Education travelling van and company, about 1980. From: Threatre Corporate. Records. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 886.



In this track, we hear Alison Quigan recall the gruelling nature of Theatre Corporate training and her work and travels with Theatre in Education, who travelled to schools as an outreach Theatre Corporate company.

Recorded in August 2005: ‘An Oral History Project: Women in Auckland who have worked in the acting profession talk about their lives’. Interview between Jean Hyland and Alison Quigan Collection reference OH_1341_008.

Read the transcript here

Author: Sue Berman, Principal Oral History & Sound



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