Arts Theatre Cronulla – potted history
In September 1946, at the Annual General Meeting of the Cronulla School of Arts, the incoming President “expressed the opinion that this institution should be more than just a library.” He called for members to form clubs within the School of Arts.
One member, Beryl Austin, organised a dramatic club, which became known as the Cronulla School of Arts Dramatic Society. The group presented their first production in 1947.
In 1958 the name was changed to the Cronulla School of Arts Theatre Group, and a stage was built in the hall of the School of Arts building in Surf Rd. The opening of the Arts Theatre Cronulla as a community theatre and a licensed public performance space took place on 30th November 1963.
The theatre’s first entry in the Sydney Drama Festival, The Shifting Heart in 1965, gained the trophy for best production of an Australian play!
In 2018 the theatre used its accumulated funds to reinvest in the heritage building, with major renovations completed in line with the Art Deco period in which it was built.
Now, almost 60 years on, Cronulla School of Arts Theatre Group is still staffed by volunteers and is a thriving local gem. It is patronised by an audience from all parts of Sydney with almost all productions sold out.
Apart from four major productions each year, the theatre’s activities include ‘Bareboards’, a sub-group providing short-term productions in between the main plays; writing and directing workshops; structured youth and adult drama classes; and Crash Test Drama, an annual 10-minute play competition that feeds into the Sydney Short+Sweet festival.
The current NSW Attorney General, Mark Speakman, is a local resident and he regularly attends our shows. Mr Speakman officiated at the 2018 re-opening and commended the theatre in a parliamentary notice that is recorded in Hansard on 17 May 2018: (https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardResult.aspx#/docid/HANSARD-1323879322-101984/link/63)