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A fresh look at Victoria Theatre 100 years ago

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Imagine if you could take a behind-the-scenes look at Newcastle’s iconic Victoria Theatre – 100 years ago. 

Imagine seeing first-hand the dressing rooms, lighting, and stage effects, as if they were real and present.

A group from The University of NSW is offering that opportunity.

The quintet has created a 12-minute fly-through of a 3D model of the theatre set in 1891.

Come Backstage! is launching today, Wednesday 4 May. 

Come Backstage – Victoria Theatre in 3D – a scene in Venice.

The online video, complete with narration, provides viewers with a unique historical look at the venue’s original stage, backstage areas, dressing rooms and even the Theatre Manager’s office. 

The unique production offers viewers a taste of at what it was like to be behind the scenes at the Newcastle East landmark as it hosted its first theatre show – Evangeline.

The 1890s show was produced by the McMahon brothers, who had brought it all the way from Broadway to Newcastle. 

As well as gas-lit foot lights, stage machinery, staircases and ladders, the 3D model includes fly gantries in which ‘flymen’ would operate the rope pulley system to fly scenery in and out of the stage. 

The University of NSW’s Associate Professor Gillian Arrighi, who led the project, says the video is a first time glimpse at what late-19th century Victorian theatre looked like backstage, including its machinery, lighting and technology that were used to create the illusions on stage. 

“Over the past 18 months, my team have completed painstaking and meticulous research to bring The Victoria’s historic stagehouse to life in 3D,” she said. 

“Our artist hand-painted all of the scenery pieces, as well as the decoration on the proscenium arch, using original sources before rendering them digitally.  

“Every digital item has been created for this project.” 

Come Backstage! – see the workings of Victoria Theatre in 1891 using 3D technology

In addition to Dr Arrighi, the team behind the 3D modelling and video include John Senczuk (scenographer, designer, historian), Dr Prue Sailer (illustrator and painter), Jean-Luc Schmid (3D modeller) and Dr Zi Siang See (extended reality specialist). 

The project Come Backstage! Behind the Scenes at the Victoria Theatre, 1891 is part of the national AusStage Phase 7, funded by the Australian Research Council through the Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities scheme. 

Come Backstage! will be available to view from Thursday 4 May via the Victoria Theatre’s website at victoriatheatre.com.au 

The Victoria Theatre is currently undergoing a $4 million restoration, hopes are that the theatre will host its first event in 2024.

The project has seen Out of the Square Media, Century Venues and Gavin Patton named among the shortlist finalists in the Education and Interpretation section of the National Trust Heritage Awards for its restoration of the Victoria Theatre.

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