The Rough Hewn Theatre Troupe, an initiative of Stella Maris College, Manly in late 2006, came from an aspiration of the school's then principal Kerry Stirling and teacher Ken Granneman to set up a theatre for young people based in Manly, serving the greater Manly area and northern beaches. The school had unique resources in a 300 seat lyric theatre, The Star of the Sea Theatre, a purpose built Drama Studio and a range of skilled theatre personnel and it wanted to share them and support young people with some theatre experience who aspired to make theatre feature in their future professional lives, either as actors, teachers, directors, writers, stage managers etc. It was a place where young people would continue to practise their craft while working towards longer term theatre goals. Rough Hewn fulfilled that goal admirably and among its alumni are graduates of The Actors Centre Academy and NIDA in Sydney, VCA in Melbourne, WAAPA in Perth, Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and the Central School of Speech and Drama, both in London and L'Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Other alumni have gone on to become Drama teachers and theatre critics, while others yet have travelled to Los Angeles, New York and London, taking classes and courses to further their aspirations.
A New Direction
In 2015, partly in response to a burgeoning discontent at the inequitable distribution of acting roles and directorial opportunities for women in the Sydney professional theatre scene and as a logical extension of the teaching of girls that is the purpose of Stella Maris College, Rough Hewn changed its focus. While young women directors have regularly featured at Rough Hewn, the company moved to be one that is primarily devoted to the work of women theatre practitioners. It now focuses on works that have all, or a larger proportion of, women in the casts of its plays. This has meant invitations to women of all ages to be part of the company. As much as possible, it will schedule works written by women. Its first production of this new direction was Jennifer Rogers' Jigsaws, with a cast of all women and in 2017 is mounting Alana Valentine's Parramatta Girls, again with a cast of all women. In mid 2017, it will mount a series of short plays, the work of 2016 HSC Drama students who undertook the Scriptwriting option for their major work in Drama. All those writers will be women.
Under its artistic director, Geoff Cartwright, Rough Hewn maintains, by necessity, its non-professional status, with the continuing, generous support of Stella Maris College.