Sydney Musgrove and Auckland's Amateur Theatre Scene, 1947-1982

Sydney Musgrove (1914-1987) was professor of English at the University of Auckland from 1947 to 1979. During this time he produced, and occasionally acted in, a significant number of plays. In 2005 Marjorie Musgrove donated her husband’s collection of director’s notes, programmes, photographs and other ephemera relating to some 28 productions in which he was involved, to the University Library.

This online exhibition features a selection of material from this rich collection relating to Auckland's amateur theatre scene during the period 1947 to 1982 and highlights the work of Musgrove and others involved in creating these productions. It reveals a rich history of amateur theatre in Auckland and locates Musgrove’s work it within the wider arts and literary scene of the period.

Professor Sydney Musgrove, known as ‘Mus’ to his friends, graduated from Merton College, Oxford with DPhil and taught English and Classics at Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of New England in Australia before moving to New Zealand in 1947. During his time at the University of Auckland Musgrove also served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor to Kenneth Maidment (1964-1970). He revived the Auckland University Drama Society and started the University’s tradition of outdoor summer Shakespeare performances in 1963. He was a poet, public orator and classical scholar with extensive knowledge of the works of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

The ‘Sydney Musgrove papers on Auckland theatre activities’ (MSS & Archives 2013/7) are held in Special Collections and can be viewed in their reading room. The collection includes souvenir programmes, photographs, newspaper clippings, producer's notebooks, wardrobe notebooks and posters. While the bulk of the collection comprises ephemera from University of Auckland's theatre societies, it also includes material from productions by the Auckland Drama Council, Auckland Repertory Theatre, and Theatre Guild (NZ) Ltd.

Jackson, M. (2004). A Theatrical Scholar: Sydney Musgrove. In D. Holman and C. C. Catley (Eds.), Fairburn and Friends. (pp258-264). Devonport, N.Z.: Cape Catley.
Sinclair, Keith. (1983) A History of the University of Auckland 1883-1983. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University Press; Oxford University Press.

Background to the exhibition
University of Auckland. (2013). Student’s exhibition uncovers magic of University’s theatre world. Retrieved from
Auckland’s amateur theatre scene
Musgrove’s vision
Many hands make light work…