The Twelfth Night Theatre was founded by Rhoda Felgate in Brisbane in 1936. Prior to this, the life of amateur theatre in Brisbane was dominated by only one company, the Brisbane Repertory Theatre (Anthony 1). In an interview, Felgate, a former foundation member, actor and producer of Repertory, stated that Twelfth Night was “stimulated by the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society” (Batchelor 8). Repertory was primarily a performing company made up of “a group of advanced players” (“Twelfth Night: New Theatre Movement” 25). It did not hold auditions or attempt a drama school of any sort. Therefore, as a speech and drama teacher with her own studio, Felgate believed that she could further help her pupils in their speech work and dramatic training by forming another theatre society, one for a group of amateurs (Radbourne 220). So, she separated from Repertory and formed a company with the aim of producing worthwhile plays and improving the standard of acting of a limited group of actors (British Drama League). In its opening year, Twelfth Night consisted of only twelve or fifteen people (Batchelor 8).
"The Repertory Theatre did not hold auditions and they didn't attempt a drama school of any sort so, before long, there were so many members of their audience - the young and the not so young - who longed for the opportunity of trying themselves out on the other side of the footlights" (Interview with Rhoda Felgate, Batchelor 8).
Twelfth Night existed in a time when little theatres were making Brisbane one of the most theatre-minded cities in Australia (Radbourne 220). The city has even been described as “the last outpost of thriving self-made theatre” (Radbourne 263). Both Felgate and her society enjoyed their independent policy as well as their artistic success in the Brisbane community (Radbourne 233). "Nobody in those days thought of asking for a subsidy, says Felgate, "if you couldn’t do it yourself you just couldn’t do it" (Batchelor 8).
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