Based in Kirribilli, on the edge of Sydney Harbour, Ensemble Theatre is committed to performing and presenting the best of international plays, well-loved classics and new Australian works. Each season we pride ourselves on delivering powerful, memorable and engaging live theatre of the highest standard. Founded in 1958, Ensemble Theatre is the longest continuously running professional theatre in Australia.
Our mission at Ensemble Theatre is to create diverse, accessible live theatre of the highest quality that entertains, educates, enlightens and challenges.
Ensemble Theatre aims to create diverse, accessible live theatre of the highest quality that entertains, educates, enlightens and challenges. Our productions appeal to a broad audience of all ages. Each year we present a season that includes the best new international plays alongside classics and brand new Australian works ranging from laugh-out-loud comedies to riveting dramas. Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry writes: “Ensemble Theatre has always been a place to share stories and my aim is to continue this tradition while matching those stories with the best creative talent from our vibrant theatre scene.”
A WORD FROM OUR ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Ensemble Theatre’s long success comes from being a very accessible place. Theatre for everyone is not a throw away statement but the core of what Ensemble Theatre means to me. Theatre shouldn’t be exclusive, elitist, but for everyone. The joy of seeing a packed auditorium full of people from all walks of life; subscribers with a long history of support for their favourite theatre; disadvantaged schools witnessing a live experience for the first time; actors and directors discovering classic or new plays; families, teenagers, new couples, theatre groups, all catching the latest play in the season, is why we do what we do. I like the joy of an audience laughing at a classic comedy that has been laughed at in that same place since its long inception; there’s that anticipation and thrill of a new play being seen for the first time; the joy of encouraging emerging and established directors; the delight of seeing plays cast with well-known, new and diverse actors on stage. I love the pleasure of audiences and creative minds meeting in a safe and welcoming environment. Ensemble Theatre is a sharing place; for discussion of the latest play, for meeting family and friends; for an evening out, eating, drinking admiring the view; and then, as the theatre doors open, for travelling into different worlds, remembering, escaping, forgetting but above all – to be entertained.
Ensemble Theatre has a long tradition of contemporary and classic theatre and has transformed over the 60 plus years of its long life building an impressive and strong subscription base. For me that tradition is the core of who we are; good plays done well. In the future we will continue to build on this core vision, developing creative relationships with the best of writers, directors and designers, producing the best of theatre nationally and internationally, maintaining a strong education base and touring model while encouraging a new life force of emerging artists.
The Ensemble Theatre is theatre for everyone — and all are welcome.
— Mark Kilmurry
On May 11 in 1958, a group of talented theatricals, who had been studying acting with American expatriate actor Hayes Gordon, assembled to present the first of two Sunday night performances in Cammeray Children’s Library under the banner ‘Variations on Similar Themes’. The invitations to their premiere performance of a selection of Tennessee Williams’ works one of the actors noted, “We haven’t a name yet. Yes, we admit to training – Strasbergian, Stanislavskian, Meisnerian, Gordonian etc and we emphasise what might be referred to as the ‘ensemble’ values in production”.
In 1960, the company moved to the current premises in the old boatshed at Careening Cove. The boatshed was converted by the members of the company into a theatre in the round and for 20 years presented theatre in this format. During the early 1980’s the venue underwent a major refurbishment during which time the company moved its base of operations to the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House which was being used as a cinema at the time. The Ensemble’s refurbished venue was re-opened in 1984 and the company celebrated 40 years in its Kirribilli home in the year 2000 with an extended season of 16 plays presented at four venues across Sydney.
Founding Artistic Director Hayes Gordon, who ran the theatre for its first 27 years, appointed Sandra Bates as Artistic Director in January 1986, a position she held for 30 years until January 2016. Sandra stands as the longest serving Artistic Director of any theatre company in the country and she led the theatre through uncertain economic times to establish it as one of the most successful theatre companies in Australia with the third largest subscription base in the country. In 2011, Sandra invited Mark Kilmurry to share the role of Artistic Director. Mark Kilmurry took over as sole Artistic Director in January 2016.