Jan Nolan, Simon Phillips, Pat Burke, and Julie Burke

Pat Burke

Pat Burke is a longtime supporter of MTC – in fact, she has been supporting the Company since its inception back in 1953!

We sat down with Pat and spoke about her affinity for theatre, her passion of the arts and her love of MTC.

Pat, can you tell us about your first experience with MTC ?

As a student at Melbourne University, I attended many performances of the MUDC (the student drama company). In 1953, new graduates were informed that the university was forming a commercial theatre company – the Union Theatre Repertory Company -fore-runner of the MTC. Vice Chancellor, Sir John Paton, invited us to support the new venture by subscribing to the first season. So I happily joined up.

You were one of MTC’s first subscribers back in 1953, what motivated you to support the company in its infancy?

My first experience with the UTRC was their first play in 1953 – Jean Anouihi’s Colombe which featured a large cast including Zoe Caldwell and George Fairfax, directed by newly appointed John Sumner. The season of fifteen plays in thirty weeks was highly entertaining and stimulating, so my friends and I renewed our subscriptions.

You have been a generous patron since the early 1990’s, why did you decide to support MTC through Philanthropy?

I was exposed to the arts at a very early age. My parents were opera buffs, and my family had many friends in the theatre world, including Gladys Moncrieff, Sheila and Robert Helpman, Olive & Frank Thring Snr., and Charles Wenman, a close friend of Madame Melba. I remember going to the ballet, opera, pantomimes and the circus. Through this early introduction my love of theatre has endured. In the 1990s, when the MTC moved to Russell Street and was in financial difficulties, I became a patron to contribute to this company which was giving me so much pleasure, and has continued to.

What is it you enjoy most about supporting MTC?

As a patron, I enjoy the company of others who have the same passion for the arts, and over the years I have made many good friends. I regard the MTC as my second family. The opportunity for meeting actor’s directors, writers and backstage crew adds another dimension to watching a play. My admiration for their efforts never diminishes. It is a privilege to be a part of it all.

Over the last 60 years what are some the most memorable performances you have been to?

  • Most Memorable: Moby Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles (1959) and starring Frank Thring as Captain Ahab.
  • Shock value: The first version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1964) starring Bunney Brooke and Brian James.
  • Unforgettable one-man performance: Geoffrey Rush in Diary of a Madman (1998)
  • Gripping true life interview : Frost/Nixon (2008)
  • Brilliant interpretation of Shakespearean drama: Richard 111 (2010) by Simon Phillips.

You have passed on your passion of theatre and the arts to your daughters, who have also been subscribing for many years. Do you think it is important for parents and grandparents to pass on their love of theatre to younger generations? Why?

I believe that all young children should be taken to see live entertainment, as they can respond to the action and develop a rapport with the performers. They really enjoy this interaction and hopefully they remember the experience and become the theatregoers of the future. That is why I support the work of The Arts Centre and Melbourne Recital Centre with their programmers for disadvantaged children.

The MTC Philanthropy Department has been running Patron Events for many years, what have been some of your favourite functions?

The Trivia Nights have been my favourite –especially when asked to “dress to a theme” No lack of ingenuity among patrons! For the first night of “Little Night Music” we were invited to attend in black tie and cocktail dress, and the after-party was at the Sofitel. A great success.

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