New Education beyond the school: Rosemarie Benjamin’s Theatre for Children, 1937-1957

John Alexander Mcintyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose:The purpose of this paper is to examine the work of Rosemary Benjamin’s Theatre for Children in Sydney as a compelling narrative of the New Education in Australia in the late 1930s, an historical moment when theatre for children emerged as a cultural experiment rich in educational ideas. Design/methodology/approach: Contemporary sources and archival records are explored through several interpretive frames to develop a historical account of Benjamin’s Theatre for Children from 1937 to 1957. Findings: Benjamin’s concept of children’s theatre was shaped by English progressive education as much as the Soviet model she extolled. She pursued her project in Sydney from 1937 because she found there a convivial European emigré community who encouraged her enterprise. They understood her Freudian ideas, which commended the use of the symbolic resources of myth and fairy tales to help children deal with difficult unconscious material. Benjamin also analysed audience reactions applying child study principles, evidence of the influence of Susan Isaacs and the New Education Fellowship. More successful as a Publicist than a Producer, Benjamin was able to mobilise support for her educational cause among performers, parents, cultural figures and educational authorities. Her contribution was to pave the way for those who would succeed with different models of theatre for children. Originality/value: This is the first study to employ archival sources to document the history of the Theatre for Children, Sydney and address its neglect as a theatre project combining educational and theatrical values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-228
Number of pages12
JournalHistory of Education Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


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