As a theatre director and writer, Dr Jane Woollard is bringing her practice-led insights to archival records where the work and lives of Australia’s first professional performers are described.
Dr Woollard’s practice-led research in the field of acting methods and nineteenth-century repertoire makes an innovative contribution to Australian theatre history research.
“I am continuously linking my research subject of early nineteenth-century theatre to contemporary theatre practice.”
Dr Woollard is a Chief Investigator on ARC-funded research project ‘AusStage: The International Breakthrough’, which integrates virtual reality (VR) recreations of nineteenth-century theatres with practice-led investigations of acting methods.
Dr Woollard’s work as a writer, director and researcher focuses on reclaiming the contribution of women to Australian theatre in the nineteenth century. Her research examines the lives and careers of leading female performers in early Australian theatre, focussing on the 1830s and 1840s, in Sydney and Van Diemen’s Land.
“Many female performers have been overlooked in the story of early Australian theatre. My research brings them out of the archives so we can imagine them on stage and hear their voices once more.”
Discovering intricate details of a performer’s life off stage is something Dr Woollard enjoys thoroughly.
“I rummage in the archives, in newspapers and acting editions of plays, considering historical fragments in relation to each other, and from this I construct a speculative version of how a performer might have appeared on stage.”
Dr Woollard’s expertise in research and theatre practice has guided her career as a university educator. Her approach to practice-based theatre teaching allows students to explore their intuitive response to texts and develop their own methodological approach to theatre making.
“My learning and teaching activities are based in enquiry-based learning: curiosity and exploration rather than ‘showing what you know’,” she said.
“My goal as a teacher is to create an open and safe learning environment based on unconditional positive regard, where the imagination is allowed plenty of room, and critical thinking is fostered.”
Alongside her role at the University, Dr Woollard is involved in the national theatre sector. Currently, she is the Tasmanian representative on the AusStage Advisory Board and the Vice President of Drama Tasmania. She served on the board of Junction Arts Festival 2018-2020 and is a peer assessor for Arts Tasmania.
Jane is a theatre director and writer who has worked in diverse contexts, including independent theatre, youth arts, local government and community cultural development. She has directed many productions and has mentored emerging writers, performers, designers and directors, especially while in the role of Artistic Director at Union House Theatre at the University of Melbourne 1999–2002. As a professional writer-director Jane has made significant theatre works which investigate the experiences of forgotten women. Her play The Hammer of Devotion (1994) was set in Melbourne’s St Pauls Cathedral Chapter House, and was a playful and spiritual exploration of four medieval writers. Her 2003 play Aelfgyva, a collaboration with composer Stevie Wishart, for the Melbourne Autumn Music Festival, explored the Bayeux Tapestry through female experience and imagined story. Prophet and Loss (2009) continued Jane’s interest in integrating contemporary and ancient text and music in unusual spaces. Prophet and Loss juxtaposed contemporary stories of bereavement with ancient laments from the Book of Isaiah. Her recent work as a writer-director is born out of her research into actresses on Australia’s early stages, 1830-45. Miss W Treads (2017) was a postmodern exploration of actress Eliza Winstanley, who debuted at Sydney’s Theatre Royal in 1834, and her recent play about early performers of Launceston, Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre, was presented at the Launceston Post Office for the 2019 Junction Arts Festival.
As Artistic Director of Here Theatre, Jane has directed six plays by award-winning playwright Kit Lazaroo: The Vanishing Box, (2003 La Mama); True Adventures of a Soul Lost at Sea, (RE Ross Award, 2004 Trades Hall); Asylum, Kit Lazaroo (Wal Cherry Play of the Year, VPL Awards Shortlist, 2007 & 2008 La Mama); Letters from Animals, (Storeroom Theatre Workshop 2007); Topsy, (fortyfive downstairs, 2007 RE Ross Award); and Bright Shiny & Green Night, (La Mama, 2015). These works theatricalise the relationship between human and non-human worlds, offering speculative realms where animals speak, and contest human dominance of the environment.
Jane also has experience researching and telling the stories of community groups and local history. Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham (2016), was a substantial 3 year art and history project for Nillumbik Shire Council in Victoria, and was Highly Commended in the Royal Historical Society of Victoria Community History Awards.
Dr Jane Woollard is Associate Head, Learning and Teaching, and Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the School of Creative Arts and Media in the College of Arts, Law and Education. She is a theatre director, writer, researcher and teacher, and graduate of Melbourne University, VCA School of Drama, RMIT University and La Trobe University. Jane has extensive experience as a teacher of tertiary Theatre and Drama subjects, having taught at Monash University, University of Melbourne, VCA Theatre and at La Trobe University. She also has significant experience as director of community engaged regional theatre in Victoria and South Australia, and of innovative new works for unconventional performance spaces.
As a writer-director and theatre historian with a focus on Australian theatre in the nineteenth century, Jane brings an embodied understanding of theatre practice to the archive.
Eliza Winstanley: Performance and writing in early nineteenth-century Australian theatre
La Trobe University
Professional Writing and Editing
Victorian College of the Arts
Bachelor of Arts
University of Melbourne
- Drama Tasmania, Vice-president
- Australian Women Directors Alliance, Co-founder & member
- Association for Australasian Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Australian Reviews editor 2017-2020
- International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR)
- Society for Theatre Research (London)
Jane has extensive experience running community projects that work towards a creative and cultural outcome. She has worked in communities and in schools to create large-scale and site-specific performance works that respond to the themes and histories of their location. She was a founding member and executive member of the Australian Women Directors Alliance (2009-2017). During this period AWDA was instrumental in advocating for increased professional opportunities for women theatre directors in major theatre companies.
Jane has designed and coordinated units focused on Directing, Playwriting, Rehearsal and Performance methodologies, Devised Theatre and Group-devised processes, Movement for Performers, Physical theatre, Australian Theatre, Early twentieth century theatre, Theatre design, Melodrama, Gesture, Stanislavski, Postdramatic theatre making. She has expertise in the performance of medieval theatre and Shakespeare.
- Australian Women Directors Alliance, Executive
- Australasian Association for Theatre Drama and Performance Studies, Executive
- Green Room Association Awards Theatre panel (2017)
- AusStage LIEF 6: Visualising Theatres – Flinders University
- Making Tracks: Touring Performance and Global Exchange 1850—1950 – Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, London, and Australian National University, Canberra
- AusStage LIEF Phase 7: The International Breakthrough – Flinders University
Jane uses textual analysis, archival research and performance methodologies to investigate the history of performance and theatre practice in colonial Australia 1830-45. She explores how theatre and performance methods were informed by theatre practice in the United Kingdom, and how these methods were adapted to the theatres of Sydney, Hobart and Launceston.
Jane’s research interprets the lives and careers of prolific female performers in Australia in the 1830s and 40s, and reclaims their contribution to early theatre practice in Australia. Her investigation of Australian nineteenth-century theatres, and theatre practice is informed by a historiographic and materialist approach, drawing on archival sources describing sites and repertoire, as well as contemporary accounts of performances.
- Nineteenth-century performance practice in Australia, 1830—45
- Nineteenth-century actresses
- Nineteenth-century drama
- Australian playwriting 1830—45
- Performing animals in nineteenth-century theatre
- Performing the non-human in contemporary theatre
- Performance making
- Australian contemporary theatre
- Australian women playwrights
- Actor training
- Applied Theatre
- Community Cultural Development
Jane frequently collaborates with other theatre makers, including performers, designers and playwrights. She has made a number of innovative theatre works with playwright Kit Lazaroo, and continues to collaborate with Kit, with a new work in development. Since 2001, as Here Theatre, Kit Lazaroo and Jane Woollard have made many beguiling and critically acclaimed theatre works. These include The Vanishing Box (2003), True Adventures of a Soul Lost at Sea (2005), Asylum (2006 and 2008), Topsy (2010); Letters from Animals (2007); and Bright Shiny and Green Night (2015). Theatre critic Alison Croggon described Letters from Animals as: “… an exemplary demonstration of how theatre can be political and contemporary without being didactic or simplistic. In short, it rocks.”
In 2021-22, Jane is a Chief Investigator on AusStage LIEF Phase 7: The International Breakthrough, a multi-institutional research project investigating the use of Virtual Reality theatres as performance laboratories. Jane is contributing to data gathering to enhance records of the period 1832-50 in NSW and Tasmania, with a focus on the Theatre Royal Hobart and the Olympic Theatre Launceston. Adopting a practice-led approach to the data, she is collaborating with actors to investigate performance methods of leading touring actresses in this period, and test the efficacy of the VR Theatre platform as a research tool to be used by scholars and the broader community. Led by Flinders University, this significant project is a collaboration between researchers from Deakin University; Edith Cowan University; Griffith University; La Trobe University; Monash University; Queensland University of Technology; University of Melbourne; University of New South Wales; University of Newcastle; University of Queensland; University of Sydney; University of Tasmania; University of Wollongong.
- 2016 Veronica Kelly Award (Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies)
- 2016 Victorian Community History Awards, Historical Interpretation, Commendation for Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham.
- 2017 Paul Iles Award (Society for Theatre Research).
Jane is working with Dr Peta Murray (RMIT) on a new version of her 1988 play Wallflowering, in collaboration with performers Jane Johnson and Gerard Lane; Tasdance; the Launceston Elderly Citizen’s Club and Ballroom Dancing Northern Tasmania. The project explores the play’s themes of loneliness, identity, calcified gender roles, and the challenges associated with ageing, such as the loss of mobility, and transforming identity.
Her collaboration with Kit Lazaroo continues with The Burrow, a new play set in a dystopian future, which is a reworking of canonical speculative fiction from a feminist perspective. The play explores resilience in the face of totalitarianism and mind control, the enduring power of story, and the relationship with the human and non-human world. For archival images of earlier works, see www.janewoollard.com
Fields of Research
- Drama, theatre and performance studies (360403)
- The performing arts (130104)
- Understanding Australia's past (130703)
- Conserving intangible cultural heritage (130403)
Jane is the author of Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham (2016), and was Australian reviews editor for Australasian Drama Studies (2017-2020). Jane has published in Australasian Drama Studies, and in The Greening of Hope: Hildegard for Australia (2016) she reflects on the process of writing and directing a play dramatizing the work and life of Hildegard of Bingen, and other medieval women writers. Her chapter in Touring Performance and Global Exchange 1850-1960: Making Tracks (2021) draws on archival research and her theatre practice to speculate on the nineteenth-century acting term ‘stage tact’, and the movements of performers on and off stage in 1840s Australia.
Highlighted publications(11 outputs)
|2021||Journal Article||Warren W, Woollard J, 'Passionate, not parochial: local theatre in Launceston', Australasian Drama Studies, (77) pp. 20-55. ISSN 0810-4123 (2021) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: Warren W
|2019||Journal Article||Woollard J, ' The Elasticity of Her Spirits': Actresses and Resilience on the Nineteenth-Century Colonial Stage', Australasian Drama Studies, 70 ISSN 0810-4123 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
|2019||Other Public Output||Woollard J, 'Hidden women of history: Eliza Winstanley, colonial stage star and our first female Richard III', The Conversation, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, Australia, 2 May (2019) [Magazine Article]|
|2019||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, 'Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre', Launceston Post Office, Tasmania (2019) [Published Creative Work]|
|2017||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, 'Miss W Treads', La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, Australia (2017) [Performance]|
|2016||Chapter in Book||Woollard J, ''The dove peered in through the windows': Theatrical adventures with Hildegard and the medieval mystic sisterhood', The greening of hope: Hildegard for Australia, Morning Star Publishing, K Massam and F Toso (ed), Northcote, VIC, pp. 1-14. ISBN 9780995381506 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]|
|2015||Book||Woollard J, 'Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham', Nillumbik Shire Council, Melbourne, pp. 264. ISBN 9780992429102 (2015) [Authored Research Book]|
|2015||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, Lazaroo K, 'Bright Shiny and Green Night', La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, Australia (2015) [Performance]|
|2009||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, 'Prophet and Loss', Wyselaskie Hall, University of Melbourne (2009) [Performance]|
|2003||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, 'Aelfgyva', Melbourne Autumn Music Festival, North Melbourne Town Hall (2003) [Performance]|
|1993||Major Creative Work||Woollard J, 'The Hammer of Devotion', St Pauls Cathedral Chapter House, Melbourne (1993) [Performance]|
Journal Article(6 outputs)
|2021||Warren W, Woollard J, 'Passionate, not parochial: local theatre in Launceston', Australasian Drama Studies, (77) pp. 20-55. ISSN 0810-4123 (2021) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: Warren W
|2020||Woollard J, 'Australasian Drama Studies', 77 ISSN 0810-4123 (2020) [Edited Journal]|
|2019||Woollard J, ' The Elasticity of Her Spirits': Actresses and Resilience on the Nineteenth-Century Colonial Stage', Australasian Drama Studies, 70 ISSN 0810-4123 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
|2019||Woollard J, 'Australasian Drama Studies', 74 ISSN 0810-4123 (2019) [Edited Journal]|
|2019||Woollard J, 'Australasian Drama Studies', 75 ISSN 0810-4123 (2019) [Edited Journal]|
|2018||Woollard J, Halba H, 'Australasian Drama Studies 73 [co-editor of reviews]', (73) ISSN 0810-4123 (2018) [Edited Journal]|
|2015||Woollard J, 'Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham', Nillumbik Shire Council, Melbourne, pp. 264. ISBN 9780992429102 (2015) [Authored Research Book]|
Chapter in Book(2 outputs)
|2016||Woollard J, ''The dove peered in through the windows': Theatrical adventures with Hildegard and the medieval mystic sisterhood', The greening of hope: Hildegard for Australia, Morning Star Publishing, K Massam and F Toso (ed), Northcote, VIC, pp. 1-14. ISBN 9780995381506 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]|
|2016||Woollard J, 'Prophet and Loss', Hope for Justice & Reconciliation: Isaiah's Voice in an Australian context, Morning Star Publishing, H Wallace and J Bottomley (ed), Australia, pp. 1-34. ISBN 9781925208566 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]|
|2019||Woollard J, 'Imagined landscapes: Geovisualizing Australian spatial narratives [Book Review]', Australasian Drama Studies, 69 pp. 206-210. ISSN 0810-4123 (2019) [Review Single Work]|
|2018||Woollard J, 'Gordon McMullan and Phillip Mead, with Ailsa Grant Ferguson, Kate Flaherty and Mark Houlahan's Antipodal Shakespeare: Remembering and Forgetting in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1916-2016 [Book Review]', Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 3, (18) ISSN 1833-6027 (2018) [Review Single Work]|
|2018||Woollard J, 'Performance, feminism and affect in Neoliberal Times [Book Review]', Australasian Drama Studies, (73) pp. 336-344. ISSN 0810-4123 (2018) [Review Single Work]|
Major Creative Work(6 outputs)
|2019||Woollard J, 'Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre', Launceston Post Office, Tasmania (2019) [Published Creative Work]|
|2017||Woollard J, 'Miss W Treads', La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, Australia (2017) [Performance]|
|2015||Woollard J, Lazaroo K, 'Bright Shiny and Green Night', La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, Australia (2015) [Performance]|
|2009||Woollard J, 'Prophet and Loss', Wyselaskie Hall, University of Melbourne (2009) [Performance]|
|2003||Woollard J, 'Aelfgyva', Melbourne Autumn Music Festival, North Melbourne Town Hall (2003) [Performance]|
|1993||Woollard J, 'The Hammer of Devotion', St Pauls Cathedral Chapter House, Melbourne (1993) [Performance]|
Other Public Output(2 outputs)
|2019||Woollard J, 'Hidden women of history: Eliza Winstanley, colonial stage star and our first female Richard III', The Conversation, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, Australia, 2 May (2019) [Magazine Article]|
|2019||Woollard J, 'Kate Mulvany's The Mares bristles with energetic feminist storytelling', The Conversation, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, Australia (2019) [Magazine Article]|
Grants & Funding
Jane has been the recipient of grants from state and federal arts funding bodies, including:
- 2021 Arts Tasmania Community Arts and Cultural Development Grant
The Wallflowering Project, by Peta Murray et al ($6 450)
- 2021 Arts Tasmania Artsbridge Grant
The Wallflowering Project, by Peta Murray et al ($1 300)
- 2019 Arts Tasmania, Northern Tasmania Arts Organisations Initiative
Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre by Jane Woollard, Junction Arts Festival
- 2015 La Trobe University Research Grant for Miss W Treads by Jane Woollard, creative development of practice-based research for doctorate ($4 000)
- 2012 City of Melbourne Arts Grant for The Bower Theatre Project ($25 000)
- 2012 Department of Environment ‘Your Community Heritage Grant’ for Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham.
Book and art show at Montsalvat Arts Centre ($ 25 000)
- 2009 Recipient of Kirk Robson Theology and the Arts Memorial Fund, Artist in Residence at the Centre for Theology & Ministry, University of Melbourne
- 2008 Regional Arts Victoria regional tour of Asylum by Kit Lazaroo ($45 000)
- 2007 Arts Victoria Presentation Grant for Letters from Animals by Kit Lazaroo
- 2006 Arts Victoria Presentation Grant for Asylum by Kit Lazaroo ($25 000)
- 2006 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Grant and Harold Mitchell Foundation for The Time is not yet Ripe by Louis Esson ($4 000)
- 2005 Arts Victoria Creative Development Grant for Letters from Animals by Kit Lazaroo ($11 000)
- 2005 Arts Victoria Presentation Grant for Asylum by Kit Lazaroo ($18 000)
- 2005 Sidney Myer Fund Grant for Asylum by Kit Lazaroo ($11 000)
- 2003 Arts Victoria Project Grant for Aelfgyva by Jane Woollard ($25 000)
- 2003 City of Melbourne Arts Grant for Asylum by Kit Lazaroo ($10 000)
- 2000 Australia Council Creative Development Grant for Needlesword by Jane Woollard ($12 000)
- 1993 Australia Council Presentation Grant for The Hammer of Devotion by Jane Woollard ($44 000)
- 1992 Australia Council Development Grant for The Hammer of Devotion ($25 000)
Number of grants
- AusStage is the oldest and most extensive national dataset on live performance in the world. The aim ofAusStage LIEF 7 is to maximise benefits arising from the global flow of data now accessible to researchersfollowing the adoption of the AusStage schema by Norway, the UK, and potentially, China. Objectives include theenhancement of the AusStage user interface; adaptation of the AusStage schema to support comparative andlongitudinal studies of the impact of government policies; and further development of AusStage immersive virtualreality theatres to popularise delivery of performing arts research. These innovations will further cementAusStage's position as an international leader in the provision of digital research infrastructure.
- Australian Research Council ($566,532)
- Grant-Linkage Infrastructure
- Administered By
- Flinders University
- Research Team
- Holledge J; Casey M; Cochrane M; Fensham R; Dennis R; Holman Jones S; Hadley B; Bollen J; Ginters L; Marshall JW; Tait P; Woollard JB; Meyrick J; Hamilton M
- Grant Reference
- Last Night of the Season; or, The Ghosts of the Theatre Royal Olympic, is a site specific work in the historic Launceston Post Office investigating leading performers in the Launceston theatre in November 1843. A part time creative development and rehearsal process with a professional team of theatre practitioners from Launceston, Hobart, Orford and Melbourne, will take place from April through to September. Subject to funding the work is programmed in the 2019 Junction Arts Festival.
- Arts Tasmania ($24,097)
- Northern Tasmania Arts Organisations Initiative
- Administered By
- Junction Arts Festival Inc
- Research Team
- Mabin F; Woollard JB
Jane has experience as a supervisor of practice-led theatre and performance projects. She is particularly interested in supervising topics that apply practice-led processes to theatre history or acting and directing methodologies. She is also happy to co-supervise theatre and performance research projects within other humanities disciplines. Proposed research projects which explore Australian nineteenth-century and twentieth-century theatre history and practice; dramatic literature; or the representation of the non-human in performance, are also welcome.
- MastersMichael Chekhov's Embodied Imagination and the Haptic Sense2019
- PhDTasdance: Forty Years On, Off and from [sic] the Island; An investigation of the impact of governance, funding and creative structures over 40 years at Tasdance, on art making and the transmission of embodied knowledge in lutruwita Tasmania and beyond
- PhD The Art of Re-entry: Roles and impacts of experimental art for people with lived experience of prison.
|PhD||Tasdance: Forty Years On, Off and from [sic] the Island;;An investigation of the impact of governance, funding and creative structures over 40 years at Tasdance, on art making and the transmission of embodied knowledge in lutruwita Tasmania and beyond||2021|
|PhD||The Art of Re-entry: Roles and impacts of experimental Art for people convicted of crime||2021|
|Masters||Michael Chekhov's Embodied Imagination and the Haptic Sense|
Candidate: Josephine Anne Christensen