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Robyn Archer Robyn Archer i(A20703 works by) (birth name: Robyn Smith)
Born: Established: 1948 Adelaide, South Australia, ;
Gender: Female
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Performer, writer, composer, music director, theatre director, administrator.

The daughter of Lykke (Cliff) Smith, club entertainer and comedian Robyn Archer grew up in Broadview and attended Enfield High School where she eventually become school captain, editor of the school magazine, and house captain. Although she suffered from severe asthma while a child, Archer discovered her big singing voice during her teen years. Her first gig, she claims, was at the Uraidla RSL. By 15, however, she was making regular appearances on the television show Bandstand. The first person in her family to go to the University, Archer graduated from the University of Adelaide with an Honours BA in 1969.

After graduation Archer became a nightclub singer, changing her name at the age of 21 from Smith, as there were 4 entertainers at the time called Robyn Smith, to Archer, the name of the secretary of the Trocadero Niteclub. She worked in Sydney for a while in 1971 before a serious accident led her to moving back to Adelaide in 1972. She gave up singing to do a Diploma in Education and spent three and a half years employed as a secondary school teacher at Elizabeth High School and at PGC (now Seymour). In 1974 she decided to return to the stage, accepting a role in the State Opera Company' of South Australia's production of Brecht and Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins. After appearing in The Threepenny Opera the following year she travelled to London, undertaking roles in several productions including the Brecht revue, To Those Born Later (National Theatre).

On her return to Australia she started writing her own shows, a number of which have been staged overseas. In 1978 she was involved in the production of two motion pictures, Doled Out, about being unemployed and on the dole in Australia, and Size 10, a film about how women feel about their bodies. During the late 1970s and early 1980s she also studied theatre and performance in the US and in Germany, and toured throughout Australia and Southeast Asia, the UK, Europe and North America during the 1980s.

Archer has used music theatre as a vehicle for protest and comment on various political and social issues, particularly those affecting women. Her cabaret works, which invariably confront social norms through satire, in addition to examining sex, politics and feminist positions, include: Kold Komfort Kaffee (1978), A Star Is Torn (1978; 1979 version with Rodney Fisher), Tonight: Lola Blau (1979), The Pack of Women (1981, written and produced by Archer), Cabaret Passé (1983), Cut And Thrust (1983), Scandals (1985) and the 1994 Festival of Perth production of See Ya Next Century (with the Chrissie Parrott Dance Company).

Archer's non-cabaret music theatre works include the script for The Conquest Of Carmen Miranda (1978) and Songs From Sideshow Alley (1978), a two-hander for women actors (with off-stage musicians) that combined elements of cabaret with a stronger musical narrative structure. 1980 also saw Archer collaborate with cartoonist Patrick Cook, writing the music for his theatrical version of Captain Lazar and His Earthbound Circus, a work commissioned by the Marionette Theatre of Australia. In 1988 Archer created, in conjunction with several other woman, a multi-cultural music theatre piece entitled Arkwanso, Fly South (music by Eddie Quansah and Charlie Chan). Two years later she premiered two other works, Mrs Bottle's Burp (1990) a children's musical, and Café Fledermaus (1990), a music theatre piece set in Vienna between the 1890s and World War 1. Her first fully-fledged musical The Bridge, which uses the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop to the narrative, was staged by students from the Western Australian Performing Arts Academy in 1992. Archer has also collaborated with British composer Lindsay Cooper on the opera Architekin.

Between 1993 and 1995 Archer was Artistic Director for the National Festival of Australian Theatre in Canberra. In 1994 she also found time to work with Ningali Lawford and Angela Chaplin on Lawford's 90 minute monologue Ningali, one of the first solo shows for an Aboriginal artist. Archer was appointed Artistic Director of the 1998 and 2000 Adelaide Festivals - the first woman to undertake this position. She has also been a recipient of an Australian Creative Arts Fellowship (1991-1993), during which time she focused much of her creative energies towards her first musical The Bridge.

Archer has written over 100 songs, many of which express her political and feminist convictions, and is well-known as an interpreter of the songs of Brecht and his 2 major collaborators, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler. She has released at least 10 albums and has written and performed in more than 20 plays and shows, many of them unpublished. She has won the Sydney Critics' Award, the Grenfell Henry Lawson Festival of Arts Award, the Australian Record Industry Association Award (1986) and the Australian Creative Fellowship (1991). She chaired the Community Cultural Development Board of the Australian Council 1993-1995, and was Artistic Director of the National Festival of Australian Theatre 1993-1995. Archer has also been recognised for her contribution to Australian theatre with an Honorary Doctorate from Flinders University (1991).

In July 2006 Archer resigned from her position as artistic director of the Liverpool, United Kingdom, based 2008 European Capital of Culture festival. Archer was appointed creative director for the Centenary of Canberra in September 2009.

Most Referenced Works

Affiliation Notes

  • South Australian
Last amended 25 Nov 2019 16:25:59
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