Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group (STAG)
by Irma V. Jackson
In 1954, the following random events occurred in Strathmore:
A play reading was held to raise funds for the local Health Centre
A complete stranger appeared on the doorstep
A chance encounter on a bus
A tiny group of young residents who enjoyed theatre discovered others who
shared their interest
Is this a scenario for a mystery novel or perhaps a play?
It is how Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group - STAG - began!
The people involved in these events arranged to meet at the Bruce Street
home of Mary and Ron Little to discuss their interest in theatrical affairs.
Mary and Ron were members of the Williamstown Little Theatre. Others
attending were lvy and Kevin Walker, associated with Northcote Theatre
Company, Nell and Ron Caldwell, Jim Clumsee, and Irma Jackson.
At this point it is worth mentioning that in the area at this time, the
only theatrical activity was provided by the Northern Light Opera Company,
based in Moonee Ponds. As its name indicates, this organisation provided
musical comedy productions, and it was felt that there was a need for a
wider coverage of theatre. After all, not everybody could sing in tune! By
the way, television had still to enter our homes and very few people owned
With a view to starting a local Drama Group, the Bruce Street meeting
decided to begin activities with a Rehearsed Play-reading "George and
Margaret", held at the Caldwell's home in Kernan Street. The response was
enthusiastic, attendees being family, friends and neighbours and the
"Essendon Gazette" was contacted to publicise our activities. This resulted
in new members - I recall Idris Jones, Margaret Walsh, Greta Pickering and
Norah ("Mopsy") Horlock, among others. Jack Russel joined us about this time
and for some years he and Ron Little alternated as Director.
It was suggested at our inaugural meeting that the group be called
"Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group" which would enable is to encompass all
aspects of theatrical activities. While this name did not appeal to all, the
acronym STAG sounded good and was easy to remember - so it has remained over
all these years.
A committee was formed, a constitution framed and adopted and we were on
our way. The fledgling group staged its first production "And This Was Odd"
at St. John's Presbyterian Church hall in Essendon. This venue was used by
STAG for our first three plays, until the Strathmore Community Hall was
built later. My lasting memory of the time spent at St. John's is frenetic,
youthful, energetic enthusiasm. We could afford to pay rental for one night
apart from performances, so Dress Rehearsal was conducted while the set was
put up around us and lighting / sound facilities were set up.
The cast had difficulties remembering lines, while adjusting to entrances
/ exits, which were constantly changing. I am sure that the Construction and
Technical Crew (same people really) and Ron Little as Director did not
actually relish the challenge.
Apart from the actual productions, all activities were conducted in the
homes of Committee members - rehearsals and monthly social activities such
as play-readings, sherry nights and charades ... all of which helped to
raise money for our continuing theatrical ventures. Finance was always
needed to pay for expensive necessities such as authors' royalties, hall
rental, costumes, sets, printing, postage, etc.
Soon after our inauguration we received an invitation to join the
newly-formed Strathmore Community Association. A Community Hall was to be
built in Loeman Street, Strathmore by the Broadmeadows Council, and
participating groups would share use of this facility. They were, of course,
expected to share in administration / upkeep responsibilities. Many of our
members worked hard to ensure that this multi-functional hall could be
utilised as a theatre for our productions. When the building was completed,
we at last had a home, although shared with Guides, Brownies, Youth Groups,
Judo Classes and the Kindergarten. Much juggling was needed to ensure that
rehearsal and production dates fitted in with the other groups' commitments.
Over the years, the other groups either dissolved or moved elsewhere, now
only STAG and the Kindergarten remain and the space has been successfully
partitioned. We have been able to turn our section into a theatre and, with
the addition of curtains and carpets, it functions very well.
Despite many difficulties over the years, we grew - not just one play a
year, but for some years we managed four Productions plus a Pantomime and a
season of One Act Plays to a Teenage Production. In this way we fostered new
actors, and directors, which has been very pleasing. Over the years, many
artists have passed through our group - technicians, actors, directors,
workers and supporters, giving freely of their talents and enthusiasm for
one year, five years, ten or twenty years - and some have been with us for
our entire history. We thank them all - without their support we could not
have survived or grown.
We have endeavoured to present a varied program each year. To this end,
we have produced the works of classical authors - Meliere, Wilde, Shaw,
Sophocles, Coward - together with contemporary playwrights such as
Williamson, Rayson, Ayckbourne, Simon. Melodramas, Pantomimes, Music Hall
have all been part of our repertoire.
We shall continue with the successful, exciting and innovative
productions - with audience support - for another 40-plus years, thereby
fulfilling our original intention ... to provide artistic and theatrical
enjoyment to our community and the opportunity to participate in these
Irma V. Jackson
(Original found-member and member of the Committee until she passed away in
- And This Was ODD directed by Ron Little
- Deliver My Darling directed by Ron Little
- Here We Come Gathering
- Blythe Spirit
- Poison Pen directed by Ron Little
- Death Takes a Holiday directed by Ron Little
- Murder Out Of Tune
- Simon and Laura directed by Ron Little
- The Barretts of Wimpole Street directed by Ron Little
- The Blue Goose
- Someone Waiting directed by Ron Little
- You Canít Take It With You directed by Ron Little
- Appointment With Death directed by Ron Little
- The Holly and the Ivy