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Australian theatre icon honoured for lasting legacy

Melbourne’s newest theatre and home to the Melbourne Theatre Company has been named after company founder and theatre director John Sumner AO, CBE at a ceremony held in Southbank today.
Mr Sumner, who established and managed the MTC for 30 years, is remembered for setting the benchmark for Australian theatre companies as well as his inspired artistic vision developing two generations of Australian playwrights and actors.
Arts Minister Lynne Kosky said Sumner set the standard for Australian theatre.
“John Sumner played a major role in establishing Australia’s theatre culture and through it our national culture, discovering and developing some of our finest actors, playwrights and directors,” Ms Kosky said.
“He encouraged and provided opportunities for Australian playwrights such as Alan Hopgood, Alexander Buzo, Nick Enright and David Williamson as well as directing the landmark Summer of the 17th Doll and more than 100 productions.”
Ms Kosky said the construction of the $53 million MTC Theatre in Southbank ended a 20-year search for a permanent home and filled an important gap in Melbourne’s cultural infrastructure.
“The new theatre will provide MTC with greater artistic and financial flexibility as well as opportunities for more daytime performances and educational programs,” Ms Kosky said.
“Melbourne is already recognised for its leadership in arts and culture. This new theatre will build on our reputation and provide more opportunities for both our artists and performing arts professionals, and audiences.
“Together with the new Melbourne Recital Centre next door, this venue adds an important dimension to the Southbank Cultural Precinct. The new complex complements its cultural neighbours – the Arts Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Victorian College of the Arts, Malthouse Theatre and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.”
Major Projects Minister Theo Theophanous said that like its namesake the new theatre will set the standard for rest of the country in both its form and function.
“The Sumner theatre will set the benchmark for facilities with the latest technology, a full fly tower and excellent backstage accommodation for actors and technical staff. On a broader level it will provide a new home for Australian talent with the 500-seat capacity auditorium a perfect size for presenting new contemporary works,” Mr Theophanous said.
“This theatre and indeed the whole MTC/Melbourne Recital Centre complex is a masterpiece of design and construction a tribute to Victorian ingenuity and workmanship. The project is part of the biggest infrastructure spend in Victoria’s history – $13 billion over four years to build hospitals, roads, schools stadiums and theatres.”