Our 30th Birthday

30 Years of Theatre

Black Swan began 30 years ago in 1991 with the work of founding Artistic Director Andrew Ross AM. The company was characterised by and celebrated for its original works, Western Australian stories, site-specific and promenade productions presented outside the theatre, Perth Festival presentations that toured extensively, and cross-cultural collaborations that uplifted and celebrated Aboriginal artists.

Watch the video above to hear from our founding Patron Janet Holmes à Court AC and Andrew Ross AM talk about how Black Swan started 30 years ago.

FOUNDING PATRON - Janet Holmes À Court AC

Janet Holmes A Court


Andrew Ross

Memories from our Black Swan Family

Michelle Gethin, Merredin Regional Ambassador

One of the most outstanding Black Swan productions I have ever seen was Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui. I was familiar with Lui's television work and it sounded like the classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? completely flipped on its head.

I invited an old friend with me and we felt very privileged to be squeezed in to see this astonishing production as its short Perth run was almost completely sold out.

Black is the New White was bold right from the get go. Witty, hilarious and surprisingly naughty, it was a triumphant romp from beginning to end. We have never laughed so loud and so long and yet it also had the ability to shock us into confronting our own unconscious prejudices without ever being malicious. It is a show i fervently hope does the rounds again and I would urge anyone to book a ticket.

Unfortunately I am not often in Perth but if the stars align and I'm in the city when a Black Swan Theatre production is happening, there is nothing I like better than grabbing a ticket to immerse myself in live theatre. I am proud to be a Black Swan Regional Ambassador and appreciate the variety of opportunities open to me.

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Murray Dowsett, Actor

Murray Dowsett reminisces about being in the inaugural production of Twelfth Night for Black Swan and in particular, adaptations from Western Australian authors Randolph Stowe and Diane Wolfer as the company brought to life Tourmaline, Merry Go Round in the Sea and The Light House Girl in his home town of Albany.

Sue Pember, Assistant Stage Manager

I have very fond memories of Welcome to Broome in 1998 as this was my first formal paid Stage Management position after graduating from WAAPA as a Stage Manager at the end of 1997.

As the assistant stage manager, part of my role was to source and set the stage every evening with props. Some of our props included handmade latex mangos made by WAAPA Props Master Andy Cross that would be dropped onto to the roof of the stage during the play and ensuring we were well stocked up on Emu Export Beer for Kelton Pell and Geoff Kelso to consume during the show. I remember we needed to order Emu export in especially when we toured the show to Company B in Sydney and it would sometimes go missing at the venue as it was a very popular prop with a few of the actors and crew.

We also needed to source a special tree from the Kimberley for the smoking ceremony and I remember fondly actor Kelton Pell was always extremely generous with sharing his knowledge of Aboriginal Culture with me so I understood the importance and significance of many of the props, artifacts and instruments used in the show.

Michael Gow was the Director, Iain Grandage was the composer and Mark Howett assisted by the late Matt Cawrse as Lighting Designers.

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Chantelle Iemma, Company Manager at Black Swan

Of course I’m biased and I would say that all of Black Swan production are my favourites but if I had to choose I would mention that The Sapphires, Other Desert Cities, Rising Water, Next to Normal, When the Rain Stops Falling, Our Town and Cloudstreet are some of the stand out productions the company has produced.

One of the highlights of all the productions that Black Swan has presented was Our Town written by Thornton Wilder and directed by Clare Watson which was presented as part of Perth Festival in the Courtyard at the State Theatre Centre of WA. Our Town consisted of a cast of three first nations artists and 95 community members all performing together on stage. This production brought absolute joy and delight to the audiences who attended. Each audience member was immersed in the performance, watching the seamlessness of each performer (professional and community) as they entered on stage.

Another highlight was working with the great cast of The Sapphires. We were all fortunate to be able to hear the beautiful voices of Casey Donovan, Christine Anu, Kylie Bracknell and Hollie Andrew resonating from the rehearsal room each day.

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Lynn Ferguson, Wardrobe Manager at Black Swan

I started work with Black Swan in January 2011. The first production I worked on was ‘Boundary Street’, which was also the first play to open the State Theatre.

My most memorable moment was designing the costume for ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. It was the most complete build of costume we have done to date. Kate Cherry the director wanted the costume to reflect the period it was written in, the late 1800s.

I was quite certain that I wanted to use some very specific checked wools, tweeds and silks in the show, in order to define the status and traits of the characters. The wools used for both Jack and Algernon’s four suits came from various mills in Scotland. Hand woven Harris Tweed for Miss Prism’s costume and Donegal tweed for Dr Chasuble’s trousers, heavy linen for his jacket. Elaborate embroidered silks for Gwendolyn came from Nottingham and we hand dyed lace in house for Lady Bracknell.

We made almost everything you see the actors wearing. The women’s build included all the underpinnings, chemises, corsets, petticoats, as well as blouses, bodices, jackets, skirts, hats, reticules (bags) and even four parasols to match the outfits. The men’s build included their suits with matching cravats and pocket squares.

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