The 1812 Theatre had its beginnings in the 1940’s under the somewhat unwieldy title of the Ferntree Gully Arts Society Repertory Players and as such is one of the longest running theatre groups in Melbourne. Home for the company was a converted army hut in Underwood Road which has continued as the Ferntree Gully Arts Society and Hut Gallery.
For the next 10 years the group grew though not exactly prospered. But despite playing on one memorable occasion to an audience of 3 the enthusiasm remained. In 1956 the group became “The Repertory Players” and led by Jon and Pauline Lowe determined to see amateur theatre flourish in the Hills. And flourish it did.
By 1968 the company had outgrown its premises at The Hut. So to the Lysterfield Progress Hall in Kellets Road, Lysterfield…twice as big as The Hut, but in a state of near collapse. For the next 6 months actors became carpenters, painters and tradesmen. The hall was converted into an intimate theatre and the 1812 Theatre was created.
But tragedy struck…in the early hours of June 2nd, 1972 flames razed the theatre to the ground. In the middle of a season the 1812 lost everything.
With the same enthusiasm on which it was weaned, the group refused to be daunted. That current season “Ring Around the Moon” was re-presented at the Scoresby Hall, and one month later The 1812 again began building at the Festival Theatre, a derelict cinema in Rose Street, Upper Ferntree Gully…our current home. Since November 1972, when the curtain rose on a new stage and a new era, The 1812 has progressed in leaps and bounds. Jazz nights, out-of-town openings for professional shows, workshops for its members, as well as 4 diverse plays presented each year.
In 1985 the company represented Australia in an international festival of amateur theatre in Monaco. A cast and crew of 20 ventured into Europe, where a uniquely Australian play, “Such is Life…Ned Kelly”, was presented.
2005 saw the 60th birthday of The 1812 Theatre – of which their hard-working members are justifiably proud!
The theatre is now run by a board of directors and has celebrated over 40 successful years at Rose Street.