Geelong Theatre Hall Of Fame

Oscar Asche (1871 - 1936)

Born in Geelong January 26, 1871, Oscar achieved world fame as actor, director, producer, writer and theatre manager. Long-term manager of London’s Adelphi Theatre, Oscar wrote, directed - and starred in - the record-breaking musical Chu Chin Chow - both stage and film versions - as well as starring in a number of Shakespearian roles. Oscar died March 1936 in England. He is the only actor depicted in glass and cement as part of the Geelong Mural, and now has given his   image, name and inspiration to the Geelong Theatre Awards.

Cheryl Barker (1960 - )

Cheryl, who began singing while at Belmont High School - where she met her childhood sweetheart and soul partner Peter Coleman-Wright - is today a true world star. She’s rated one of the most beautiful sopranos in the operatic world, where she’s the definitive Madam Butterfly. Cheryl and Peter now have two family homes, in London and Sydney - because Cheryl’s a principal with both the English National Opera and Opera Australia. 

Michael Cant (1931 - 2015)

English-born Michael arrived in Geelong in 1949 aged 18. Three years later he joined the Geelong Musical Comedy Company (GMCC) and began a stage career that was to last for most of the next 40 years. As well as taking lead roles in 45 musicals, frequently alongside his wife Norma, Michael held a number of administrative positions with GMCC, including long-serving President in the 1990s.
But Michael was not an exclusive player. He also took on roles with Geelong Repertory Company, Geelong Lyric Theatre Society - and in the 1970s he and Norma became regular performers with Geelong’s Gay Nineties Music Hall, for whom they appeared more than 800 times. In 1991 Michael and Norma were made life members of GSODA for their significant and long-term contributions to the Geelong Musical Comedy Company.  Off-stage, Michael was a professional photographer, first with Camera House; with several local studios - and for more than 30 years he was official photographer for the Ford Motor Company in Geelong.

Peter Coleman-Wright

Peter is half of Geelong’s superstar operatic duo with his wife, Cheryl Barker. She appears further along in our Hall of Fame. Peter’s the baritone of the pair. As a matter of fact, he’s one of the world’s leading baritones across all platforms,  opera, concert and recital. Peter and Cheryl have performed leading roles for the world’s opera companies for more than 20 years, and just as Cheryl is regarded as the current definitive Madam Butterfly, Peter is the world’s first choice to play Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. He was also an acclaimed Figaro in the Jonathan Miller production of The Barber of Seville making him officially at the cutting edge of operatic singing.

George Coppin (1819 - 1906)

English actor, comedian, entrepreneur, theatre owner, administrator, innovator - and the father of Geelong’s theatre. George arrived in Geelong May 1852 bankrupt and insolvent having lost his previous fortune when his Melbourne theatre had burned down. He gained permission from Gov. LaTrobe to run his Geelong Theatre in Malop St - provided he didn’t employ convicts or stage plays on Saturdays. George ran his theatre with huge success by staging ‘wholesome full-blooded entertainment’ - plays including George’s adaptations of classic novels including Uncle Tom’s Cabin - with song, dance and instrumental concerts Saturday nights. He was making £500 a night at the height of the goldrushes, and when he sold the theatre and left for Adelaide January 1854 he had discharged all debts, had a small fortune and left ‘the best wishes of the whole community’ as well as a thriving theatre scene. 

Dulcie Meakin (1899 - 1989)

Founder and long-time driver of Geelong Repertory Company, Dulcie arrived in Geelong, newly married, in 1922. An established performer, she began producing plays with the Old Girls of Morongo, then the

Presbyterian Girls College. She taught at Geelong College and had many private elocution students, several of whom (Coral Browne, Barry Crocker) went on to fame.
Along with Jack Wilson and John McCabe Doyle, Dulcie formed the Geelong Repertory Company in 1932, remaining with the company as producer, director and actress for the next 38 years - her final role for the company being assistant producer for Boeing Boeing in 1970. Dulcie died in June 1989, days short of her 90th birthday. 

Dennis Mitchell (1932 - 2014)

Actor, writer, singer, musician, director, administrator and co-founder of Theatre of the Winged Unicorn. Dennis arrived in Geelong an engineer and swiftly became part of the theatre community. When he was elected president of Geelong Repertory Theatre Company in the 1990s, the company faced severe financial difficulties and was without a regular home. Dennis oversaw the conversion of the company’s storage space into The Woodbin Theatre - where the first play staged was ‘Behind The Arras’ - written and directed by Dennis Mitchell.

Elaine Mitchell

Artist, actor, director, producer, set and costume designer, and co-founder of Theatre Of The Winged Unicorn. Above all else, a mentor and supporter of the performing arts in Geelong. Elaine is first and foremost a visual artist, but one with a deep love and understanding of performance.
Elaine met her husband, Dennis, through Geelong Repertory Theatre Company and the couple acted, directed and administered the company through its troubled financial period in the 1990s This was when Elaine’s flowing artistic costumes and settings becoming a distinctive company feature. The couple later founded their own Theatre Of The Winged Unicorn in Ceres, earning a reputation for staging high-quality historic plays in the town’s heritage-listed Memorial Hall. Elaine continued this tradition after Dennis’ demise, mentoring a number of young writers, directors and performers.  

Carrie Moore (1882 - 1956)

Singer, actor, world-ranked performer. Carrie, born in Geelong West, was spotted as a pre-teen singing with her sisters in the local Salvation Army Choir by J C Willamson. She featured in Williamson’s Melbourne productions till travelling to England with the company - in her late teens - where she became a star of the London music hall. Her signature song was ‘I Don’t Want To Play In Your Yard’. Stunningly beautiful and highly talented she counted several crowned heads of Europe among her admirers, and Franz Lehar wrote The Merry Widow for her. 

Ian Roberts

Arts administrator Ian was appointed manager of Geelong Performing Arts Centre in the 1990s at a time when the Centre was struggling on all fronts. Ian reduced the hiring fees to local companies while for the first time bringing in a Geelong Theatre season, utilising touring plays from big-name companies, Melbourne Theatre Company, Playbox, Bell Shakespeare etc. This proved to be the turn-around point for the Geelong Centre, as well as a pattern for other performing arts centres to copy. After overseeing several annual theatre seasons - each improving on the past - Ian moved on to become administrator for the Melbourne Festival.

Geoff Tomkins (1944 - 2015)

Geoff was involved in - and enhanced - more than 150 Geelong musical theatre productions in remarkable a career spanning more than 40 years. He took a variety of roles with many companies, ranging from administrator, actor and scene-shifter to musician and musical director. It was in the latter role with Geelong Lyric Theatre Society that he was best remembered - and recognised by multiple Victorian Music Theatre Guild nominations and awards. Away from the theatre, Geoff was a gentle maths teacher and family man. In the theatre (and the football arena) he was a man of deep passions. As a tireless, patient and ever-cheerful helpful mentor he passed on his skills - and passions - to a raft of talented younger Geelong musicians who were to gain further State recognition and awards including John Shawcross, Michael Wilding and Amy Wert.

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