Ribbons, Raves, and Reviews 😎

It was with enormous pleasure that, on Thursday, 21st April, I took part in the official opening of ATYP’s new home, together with my old friend and colleague Wendy Blacklock.

Had anyone told me, back in 1964, that our then brand new enterprise – providing high-quality professional theatre for young people – would still be going strong in 2022, I doubt that I would have believed it, but here we were, witnessing the joyous opening of a new theatre and watching the Hon. Don Harwin as he cut the ribbon held by two young people from the Youth Advisory Board.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to be able to inform the assembled guests that our ATYP is now the longest continuing young peoples’ theatre in the world – surely a miracle considering its humble beginnings in my living room all those years ago. We had no money, no grants or subsidy; nothing but passion and determination and the outstanding generosity of a performing arts community which gave its time and energy unstintingly. For the first productions, leading actors rehearsed without pay, then accepted minimum Equity rates. Writers accepted commissions and produced wonderful scripts for peanuts and we all set about raising funds by any means possible.

There was a casino night in law-abiding Mosman when we played two up and gambled with an illegal roulette wheel purloined from the chief of police; a tour of newly gentrifying Paddington where over four thousand people turned up unexpectedly, causing traffic jams requiring police intervention and excited to see the inside of TV star Gordon Chater’s abode (opening his fridge and peering under his bed in a most unseemly fashion, but netting us over two thousand pounds), and a children’s fashion parade modelled by the offspring of famous artists.

Cast lists read like a Who’s Who of the theatre in those heady years when we toured throughout NSW and Queensland and played holiday seasons in every kind of venue including Harry M. Miller’s Playbox, the St. James Theatre, the theatre in Killara, and later, the Parade Theatre with the Old Tote.

There were problems in the seventies and eighties which forced us to concentrate on youth workshops for a while, but now, in a glorious new waterside setting, made possible again by the generosity of theatre professionals including Rebel Wilson and the ATYP Foundation, the dream we had in the beginning has been fully restored and completely realised.

The Deb, which opened the first season at the Wharf, is a fantastic production that would grace any stage. Wonderfully talented professionals at all levels; performances so polished they took our breath away; choreography and musical numbers which made us laugh and cry, this production was so fresh that it sent us out on a cloud of delight. The ATYP has come full circle and is better than ever. The stars of yesteryear would surely be cheering!

Don’t miss the chance of seeing this truly delicious piece of new Australian musical theatre. The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian all gave it tremendous reviews. It runs until May 22nd, so book your tickets now and join me in congratulating everyone who has contributed to making it possible. There is no doubt in my mind that this is just the beginning of something bigger and better than ever.

Diana Sharpe, ATYP co-founder and former Executive Director.