Career highlights and the making of a committed artist
Barbara’s acting credits include work in theatre, film and television. Among her major stage roles in Sydney were Inez in No Exit, Avonia in Trelawny of the Wells, Jeanne in The Touch of Silk, Marie in Life in a Quiet House, Margaret Fountaine in Love Among the Butterflies, Aurelia in Letters Home and the Mother in her play, Watching Like the Moon, about her disabled son. The latter was performed in Women in Shorts, a series of short plays by Australian women writers which was funded by the Australia Council.
Quotes from reviews
“… actors Barbara Altorjai Albury and Monique Spanbrook are terrific, individually and together.” – James Waites (Sydney Morning Herald)
“Outstanding for me was Barbara Altorjai Albury’s Watching Like the Moon.” – Carrie Kablean (Sunday Telegraph)
“Barbara Altorjai Albury’s sensuous older woman is outstanding” – James Waites (Sydney Morning Herald)
Roles since arriving in Armidale include the Prince in The Green Prince (Armidillos Theatre Company), Hildegard of Bingen in Hildegard, a number of characters in Aftershocks, Melissa Gardner in Love Letters and the psychiatrist in Frozen for the Armidale Play House. She also reprised Watching Like the Moon, which was a winner in the Armidale Drama and Musical Society’s Favourite Shorts Play Festival, 2012.
In 2014 Barbara played Blanche DuBois in High Country Theatre’s inaugural production of A Streetcar Named Desire and Virgina Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (part of A Woolf at the Door trilogy, 2015).
Barbara’s radio drama Watching Like the Moon was broadcast on ABC Radio and her documentary about disability, Against All Odds, was shown in prime time on SBS Television. Barbara initiated the development of the documentary A Week with William, a program on disability which was shown on ABC’s Compass program in September 2007.
Directing and Writing
Barbara wrote and staged Journey Between Two Cultures and Hungarian Sunday, two plays based on her childhood experiences as a migrant in Australia. Hungarian Sunday was included in the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival – A Sea Change (1998). She took Journey Between Two Cultures to Hungary where she performed it for the World Conference of Hungarian Women in Budapest’s historic Parliament House in 2007.
Barbara co-adapted and directed Up the Creek for a season at the Belvoir Theatre Downstairs in Sydney and again in Armidale. The play is based on the writings of Dame Mary Gilmore and Edward Dyson, and was part of the official Centenary of Federation celebrations in Sydney.
In Armidale, Barbara directed Away (University of New England Outdoor Shakespeare Festival; The Good Doctor (Armidale Play House Russian Festival); Woyzeck (German Consul and UNE sponsored Armidale German Festival); co-directed Cabaret with Gordon Cope (APH) and directed Vincent in Brixton (APH). In 2007, she initiated Favourite Shorts – a festival of new plays by local and other writers which has been an ongoing event in Armidale ever since.
Theatre with the Community
Barbara wrote and directed Who is Frank Archibald, a play about a well-known Aboriginal elder from Armidale (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee Week 2008; winner, Favourite Shorts 2009). She also created This Land, Our Land, a play about Aboriginal culture and heritage. The project was a collaboration with Duval High School and the Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place. It was funded through the Northern Tablelands Industry and Education’s Adopt a School Program.
To commemorate the 170th anniversary of the founding of Armidale, Barbara wrote and directed The Naming of Armidale. The re-enactment was organised by the Armidale and District Historical Society and supported by the Armidale Dumaresq Council and was performed in Macdonald Park on 30 September 2009.
In November 2013 Barbara presented Armidale – Our Town, a production based on the history of Armidale for the Sesquicentenary of local government (sponsored by the Armidale Dumaresq Civic Precinct).
From 2009 till 2013 Barbara was involved in a drama program for people with disabilities, through the Saturday Magic Theatre Troupe (previously known as Magic Circle).
Barbara believes acting has many benefits. The actors with disabilities were so spontaneous and had such a good time on stage that the volunteers who worked alongside them and also the audiences quickly absorbed their sense of happiness and fun. The troupe was first invited to perform before an audience in the popular community pantomime Alice Lost in the Tablelands created by Pam Menzies.
Barbara created three major productions for the troupe: A Kind of …Cinderella; Rockin’ Robin and the Hoods (both at TAS Hoskins Centre, Armidale), and The Last Supper (Uniting Church, Armidale). Saturday Magic Theatre has grown in numbers and Margaret Kennedy, Barbara’s successor, continues to stage well-received productions.
Barbara has observed that the performers’ achievements go way beyond what audiences expect; that their stamina and enthusiasm during rehearsals rival many theatre groups she has worked with. When a show by people with disabilities bumps out, she’s likely to think it is she who has gained the most.
For more photos, go to Gallery 2.