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 training makes an innovative contribution to Australian theatre history research.
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.
Her intrigue for theatre and performance began when she was only five years old, and a theatre troupe came to her school. “There were three actors in colourful clothing, and they performed in an energetic and playful style in front of the big classroom blackboard. I had never witnessed adults behave like this in real life, except on the television in Playschool and Romper Room. It was then that I was hooked on the powerful magic of theatre and performance.”
As a woman in a traditionally male occupation, Dr Woollard’s work as a writer, director and researcher has seen her focus primarily on the history of female performers. Her current 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.
In 1993, Dr Woollard wrote and directed a play called The Hammer of Devotion. The storyline followed four medieval female writers and their ‘across time’ encounters with four modern women. The play hosted a cast and production team of all women and was staged in the Chapter House of Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral, which was once the seat of male power in the Anglican church.
“It was incredibly difficult for women theatre directors in Australia to realise theatre of this scope and scale. It was a flawed project, but looking back at the images and video, I am proud of the scale of the work, the poetry of the text I wrote and the images I made, and my dedication to bringing female history into the light. I commend my younger self for her ambitious and prescient theatrical vision.”
Discovering intricate details of a performer’s life off stage is something Dr Woollard enjoys thoroughly.
Dr Woollard’s love for research and theatre practice has guided her career as a university educator. Her open-minded approach to teaching allows her students to connect with their own imagination.
“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 set free, and where critical thinking is encouraged and developed.”
Alongside her role at the University, Dr Woollard is largely involved in the Tasmanian Performing Art Scene. Currently, she is the Tasmanian representative on the AusStage Advisory Board and the Vice President of Drama Tasmania. Dr Woollard was also on the board of the Junction Arts Festival between 2018-2020.
Dr Jane Woollard is Associate Head, Learning and Teaching, and 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, researcher and teacher, and graduate of Melbourne University, VCA School of Drama and RMIT 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.
Jane’s theatre practice and her scholarly writing dwell in the difficult spaces of knowing and not-knowing; both as a theatre historian, and as a writer-director who brings an embodied understanding of theatre practice to the archive.
Jane has worked in diverse contexts, including independent theatre, youth arts, local government and community cultural development. She has directed many productions and has mentored numerous 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; Hrotsvit of Gandersheim; Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch of Brabant. 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. Performed in Wyselaskie Hall at Melbourne University, and featuring the music of Deb Kayser and Nick Tsaivos, https://www.discogs.com/Deborah-Kayser-Nick-Tsiavos-The-Fallen-Woman/release/11544259. 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 Nights, (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’s substantial experience documenting the stories of community groups and adapting this material into theatre, has enabled her to step sideways into cultural projects such Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape & Memory in Eltham (2016), a local art and history project; and research and write interpretative text for WWI memorial sites in the outer north east of Melbourne.
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
- Junction Arts Festival, Board member
- Australian Women Directors Alliance, Co-founder & member
- Association for Australasian Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies
- International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR)
- Performance Studies international (PSi)
- 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.
Directing, Playwriting, Performance methodologies, Devised Theatre and Group-devised processes, Movement, Physical theatre, Theatrical space, Theatrical gesture, Melodrama, Nineteenth-century theatre, Australian Nineteenth-century performers and performance methodology, Actresses, Early Australian playwriting, Louis Esson and the Pioneer Players, Applied Theatre, Medieval Drama, Twentieth-century women playwrights, Australian Post-modern Theatre, Actor training.
Devised theatre, Embodied performance practice, Script writing, Rehearsal Methodologies, Directing, Dramaturgy, Acting, Melodrama, Practice as research
In the Theatre and Performance major, Bachelor of Arts Jane co-ordinates and teaches:
- 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
- Ross Female Factory Mixed Reality Experience: Telling Female Convict Stories – University of Tasmania
- 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
- 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’s research aligns to the University’s research theme of Creativity, Culture and Society, investigating the past history of performance and theatre practice in Australia, and how nineteenth-century theatre and performance methods were informed by theatre practice in the United Kingdom, while at the same time responding to the culture and society of 1830-45 Australia, especially in Sydney, Hobart and Launceston.
Jane’s research interprets the lives and careers of prolific female performers in Australia in the 1830s and 40s, and reappraises the significance of their contribution to the development of theatre practice in Australia. Her investigation of existing and vanished theatres in Australia is informed by a historiographic and materialist approach, drawing on archival sources describing sites and repertoire, as well as contemporary accounts of performances.
Since 2018, Jane has been a researcher as part of AusStage Phase 6: Visualising venues in Australian live performance research. This project aims to construct a two- and three-dimensional visual interface and digital curatorial space, improving the existing AusStage open-access live performance database. This new interface, ‘Phase 6’, will create visualisation infrastructure, map relationships between Australian artists, audiences and venues, and collaborate with leading performing arts collections to foster compatible models and projects. Expected benefits are better understanding of the physical parameters of live performance and improved decision-making for metropolitan and regional communities about managing theatre sites and venues.
She was invited to present at Making Tracks: Touring Performance and Global Exchange 1850-1950, a symposium held at ANU in 2019, lead by Professor Gilli Bush-Bailey (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama) and Dr Kate Flaherty (ANU). Jane is contributing a chapter to the forthcoming Routledge publication which expands on the papers and research themes presented at the symposium.
- 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 continues to develop her work on the Olympic Theatre, which was an active venue in Launceston in the 1840s. Her play Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre, was presented at the 2019 Junction Arts Festival, and was a practice as research project exploring the lives, repertoire and performance methods of leading actors in Van Diemen’s Land, as well as their performing dogs.
Her work on four leading female performers in Tasmania and NSW also continues as part of a larger research project.
Her proposed production of Peta Murray’s Wallflowering sees Jane continue her practice as a director of community engaged theatre. The project is a collaboration with the Launceston Elderly Citizen’s Club, revisits Murray’s well-known play through the lenses of ageing, isolation and healing power of social dance.
Fields of Research
- Drama, theatre and performance studies (360403)
- Creative writing (incl. scriptwriting) (360201)
- Performing arts (360499)
- Performance art (360603)
- Biography (430303)
- Religion, society and culture (500405)
- Gender studies (440599)
- Social and personality psychology (520599)
- The performing arts (130104)
- Conserving intangible cultural heritage (130403)
- Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture (210407)
- Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies (280122)
- Workplace and organisational ethics (excl. business ethics) (130306)
- Religious philosophies and belief systems (130502)
- Communication across languages and culture (130201)
- Understanding Australia's past (130703)
- Expanding knowledge in human society (280123)
- Expanding knowledge in psychology (280121)
- Communication (130299)
As a writer-director, Jane has produced a number of substantial Non-traditional research outputs, including her two plays exploring the lives and practice of early Australian theatre practitioners, Miss W Treads (2017) and Ghosts of the Olympic Theatre (2019). Her long collaboration with playwright Kit Lazaroo has resulted in an extensive exploration of the portrayal of the non-human in contemporary Australian theatre. Jane is the Australian Reviews Editor for Australasian Drama Studies.
Highlighted publications(7 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]|
|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]|
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
Over the course of her career as a professional theatre practitioner, Jane has been the recipient of many arts funding grants from local, state and federal funding bodies.
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 cementAusStages position as an international leader in the provision of digital research infrastructure.
- Australian Research Council ($566,532)
- Grant-Linkage Infrastructure
- Administered By
- Australian Research Council
- Research Team
- Holledge J; Casey M; Cochrane M; Fensham R; Dennis R; Holman Jones S; Hadley B; Arrighi G; 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 is expert in embodied performance methodologies, actor training and contemporary theatre making. Since commencing at UTAS she has supervised two practice as research honours projects to completion: one investigating the application of physical theatre methods to ‘Wayang Kulit’, traditional Malaysian shadow theatre, and the other investigating possibilities for capturing the movement traces of Iaidō swordsmanship onto physical material via chalk on paper, and footprints into clay. She is currently supervising a PhD project investigating Michael Chekhov’s embodied imagination and the haptic sense, and an Honours project exploring the representation of disability in theatre.
|Masters||Michael Chekhov's Embodied Imagination and the Haptic Sense||2019|
|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|