Director, scholar, poet: Sydney Musgrove's vision

Musgrove's vision and direction of amateur theatre in Auckland was largely driven by his academic pursuits. His choices of plays for the Auckland University College Drama Society or Auckland University Workshop continued the society's tradition of presenting academic plays. This is reflected in tradition of outdoor summer Shakespeare that Musgrove initiated as well as in productions preceding this, such as the 1968 performance of Armstrong's last goodnight, a modern play about political landscape of 1530s Scotland. Musgrove's work in theatre outside of the University was another creative outlet for his scholarly pursuits. For example, The Lady's Not For Burning, by the Combined Dramatic Societies of Auckland, is a comedy about witchcraft written in verse.

Under Musgrove direction, a mixture of classic and then-contemporary plays were produced but with a focus on works set between the 13th and 16th centuries. This included works by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Osborne, John Arden and Christopher Fry. Through these plays Musgrove re-examined historicism in a way that was focused and pragmatic, offering his interpretation of the period. The items displayed shed light on his directorial vision and thematic interpretation with regards to the 28 plays in the collection.

It was largely due to his determination and initiative that the University’s Maidment Theatre was built. This versatile theatre, which can seat up to 488 and has a stage that can be configured in a number of ways, remains an important venue for amateur theatre in Auckland. During sabbatical leave in 1960 Musgrove researched theatre acoustics and design, visiting many university and community theatres with the developments of this theatre in mind. In 2004, the smaller ‘Workshop Theatre’ was renamed ‘The Musgrove Studio’ in acknowledgement of Musgrove’s contribution to the University theatre scene.

Jackson, M. (2004). A Theatrical Scholar: Sydney Musgrove. In D. Holman and C. Cole Catley (Eds.), Fairburn and Friends. (pp258-264). Devonport, N.Z.: Cape Catley
Grafton Shakespeare and Dramatic Club. The Prompt / Grafton Shakespeare and Dramatic Club Vol. 1, no. 9, 10, 12 (1939); v. 2, no. 13 (1940)-v. 21, no. 86 (1960). Auckland, N.Z. : F.C. Webster.
Auckland’s amateur theatre scene
Musgrove’s vision
Many hands make light work…