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Melbourne Theatre Company

Australia's oldest still-operating professional theatre company is also Melbourne's largest. It was founded by John Sumner in 1953 as the Union Theatre Repertory Co. and was renamed in 1968. It has occupied various venues during its history, including the Union Theatre at the University of Melbourne, the Russell Street Theatre, St Martin's Theatre and the Athenaeum Theatre. Since 1984 it has used the Playhouse and Fairfax Theatres at the Arts Centre. Its original aims included the presentation of non-commercial works that would both educate and entertain, and the encouragement of Australian playwrights. Its programming has typically consisted of a mixture of stage classics, Australian plays and contemporary work from England and the United States in particular. As a comparatively well-resourced and partly subsidised company, the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) has established a reputation for solid, high-quality productions characterised by mainly conservative programming with occasional riskier productions, and in the 1990s ventured into quality musical theatre. Begun as a repertory company, it has become looser in structure, and has employed a large and distinguished variety of guest directors, actors and designers over its history. Its artistic directors have included Ray Lawler and Wal Cherry, and Roger Hodgman, appointed director in 1987, strengthened its touring seasons, its educational and schools programs and co-productions particularly with other State theatre companies. Decreases in public funding have seen a more commercial style of management introduced and the soliciting of corporate support, but the MTC's main supporters are the large audiences its productions attract. The MTC performed the first production of Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, and has provided Melbourne with some of the best theatre productions seen there.

Helen Thomson