Born in a Trunk and Living in a Suitcase

Whether bonded by blood or shared experience, family strongly underpins the foundations of the performing arts industry. "I was born in a trunk" is a familiar introductory phrase used by those born of theatrical parents.

This story tells of the great Australian theatrical managements of J.C. Williamson Ltd (The Firm), and the Tivoli Circuit.

It also provides insights into Australian theatrical families such as: Tony Sheldon, his mother Toni Lamond, father Frank Sheldon, grandparents Max Reddy and Stella Lamond, and aunt Helen Reddy; and Val Jellay and her husband Maurie Fields, who met and married while touring together in the travelling company Sorlie's.

In the theatrical industry people like Irene Mitchell, artistic director of the Little Theatre which became St Martin's Youth Arts Centre, Gertrude Johnson, artistic director of the National Theatre, and Betty Pounder, choreographer and casting agent for J.C. Williamson, provided role models and mentoring for a generation of Melbourne actors and performers.

The text above has been abstracted from an essay Born in a trunk and living out of a suitcase written by Carolyn Laffan for the publication The Australian Family: Images and Essays. The full text of the essay is available as part of this story.

The Performing Arts Museum (now known as The Arts Centre, Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection) produced the exhibition Kindred Spirits - The Performing Arts Family as part of The Australian Familyproject, which involved 20 Victorian museums and galleries. The full series of essays and images are available in The Australian Family: Images and Essays published by Scribe Publications, Melbourne 1998, edited by Anna Epstein. The book comprises specially commissioned and carefully researched essays with accompanying artworks and illustrations from each participating institution.