Early Theatre at the Charlotte Museum

9 March 2009

Charlotte Museum

The Charlotte Museum is currently displaying an exhibition of early lesbian theatre. There are photos of the women who bravely toured a somewhat homophobic New Zealand with controversial theatre about abortion, violence against women and women’s lack of equality.

Courtesy of the New Zealand Film ArchiveCharlotte Museum has had two showings of a DVD featuring lesbian icon Freda Stark.  Curves and Contrasts was a film made by Robert Steele in 1946, and featured Freda and her ‘Lavender’ marriage husband Harold Robinson.  Although the DVD only plays for about five minutes it is an important event as it is one of the few known films of Freda in her 1940s heyday when she was known as ‘Fever of the Fleet’. A third showing is scheduled for Freda Stark’s birthday on 27 March.

The Museum has been also privileged to have Freda’s great nephew and her great niece in attendance to pass on anecdotes about their Aunt.  One of the most memorable stories his mother had told him was how difficult it was to get the gold paint out of the bath!  (Freda often danced in gold paint).  Freda was fond of gin on her birthday and always dressed well even if she were only going to the local dairy.

An early member of the Broadsheet Road shows, Deb Filler will reminisce about these times and her theatre work overseas on March 14. Her iconic shows, Filler Her Up on the love of food and body image, and Punch Me In The Stomach the story of taking her father back to Auschwitz, are represented on the walls with their respective flyers for the New Zealand performances. It is planned to film Deb Filler to enable the museum to give her talk other audiences in the future.

The theatre exhibition will be condensed at the end of April to make way for our annual Anzac Day commemoration for lesbians who enlisted, were discharged, and lesbian who were victims of war.

Image: Costume worn by Amanda Lees, playing Freda Stark

Explore the Charlotte Museum’s collections