On Thursday 4th August, 19 members of our Probus Group met outside the State Theatre in readiness for our guided tour. We were met by Stuart, our guide, who was a wealth of knowledge and very passionate about the theatre and the arts. He kept us informed and entertained for the next 2 hours, giving us an overview of the theatre’s history. The State Theatre opened its doors in June 1929, owned by Union Theatres. It was to be seen as ‘The Empire’s Greatest Theatre’ and was designed as a picture palace.
The tour took us through the men’s smoking rooms and the recently refurbished Butterfly room, with beautiful butterfly murals and gold gilded designs. We were then taken backstage visiting the dressing rooms of the star performers, the green room, and the dining areas. The walls in these rooms were adorned with signed posters of the many stars that have performed at the theatre over the years. Stuart then led the group onto the stage to experience what it is like looking out into the auditorium. The ladies in the group even got to do a quick number onstage. As a special treat, Stuart organised for the famous 21 rank Wurlitzer organ – one of only three in Australian theatres – to be raised from under the stage for us all to admire.
Stuart explained that the architecture combined many styles including Art Deco, Gothic and Italian influences. It is one of the only two surviving theatres designed by Henry White, the other being the Capital Theatre. The theatre’s foyer and principal areas have the largest areas of scagliola – a finish that resembles marble. We were taken upstairs into the dress circle to admire the magnificent cut-crystal chandelier that is the second largest in the world, weighing in at over four tonnes. Then we viewed the corridor where paintings by William Dobell and Julian Ashton are hung.
Since the 1990’s the theatre has catered primarily for live theatre. With seating for 2000 patrons, it hosts the annual Sydney Film Festival.
We all really enjoyed the tour, the information, and the stories that Stuart conveyed to us.
Some of us finished with a coffee next door at Parlour Cucina, with its beautiful art deco décor.