August 1, 2011

Rosalie Carey, 1921 – 2011

Editor    posted 1 Aug 2011, 09:37 AM / edited 1 Aug 2011, 09:39 AM

 ROSALIE Carey obituary

— Nigel Benson, Otago Daily Times, July 16 2011.

ROSALIE Carey was the brightest of lights in Dunedin in the 1960s and 1970s.

The co-founder, with late husband Patric Carey, of the pioneering Globe Theatre illuminated and revolutionised theatre in New Zealand. The Globe was the first purpose-built theatre run by professional directors in the country, when it was established by the Careys in their London St home in 1961, and fostered a generation of writers, directors and actors.

The couple promoted classical, contemporary and experimental theatre, dance and concerts, and championed writers like James K. Baxter, R.A.K. Mason, Janet Frame, Robert Lord and John Caselberg.  ‘‘The programme the Careys followed was always looking for provocative material and that’s something we try to continue today,” acting Globe Theatre chair Don Knewstubb said.

‘‘At the 50th anniversary of the Globe in February, it was notable how many former members said the Globe was the start of their real education. It opened their eyes to things that weren’t happening elsewhere.”

Dunedin had never seen anything like the Globe and the theatre quickly caught the imagination of local artists, writers, academics, students and theatre-lovers. Poet, Landfall founder and arts philantropist Charles Brasch bought not one, but two Globe life memberships.

‘‘Patric and Rosalie were regarded not only with huge respect, but also great affection, by those who worked with them,” Mr Knewstubb said. Mrs Carey was involved in every aspect of the theatre; from acting and costume-making to prop construction.

She produced and acted in her first play at the Globe, Hedda Gabler, in 1961 and dramatised her last, State of Siege, in 1987.

Mrs Carey grew up in Waikato and dreamed of a career on stage from a young age. However, her plans to travel to England were temporarily stymied when World War 2 broke out and she instead taught elocution and voice production, before joining the New Zealand Air Force as a WAAF. 

After the war, she left for London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she toured Britain working in provincial and repertory theatre. She met her future husband, young Irish theatre designer Patric Carey, in Cornwall and the couple married, before returning to New Zealand and an uncertain future, as there was no professional theatre here.

They settled in Wellington and Mrs Carey toured with the New Zealand Players, until Mr Carey was offered the position of director for the Dunedin Repertory Society. They moved to Dunedin, despite Dame Sybil Thorndyke’s warning the city was ‘‘the graveyard of theatre”.

They moved into the William Mason designed home at 104 London St in 1957, which Mason, Dunedin’s first mayor, had originally built for his own use, in 1864. The ‘‘theatre in a house” was created when they extended their living room into an auditorium and converted the space into a 30-seat theatre. It was later modified into the 72-seat theatre which exists today.

The Careys actively promoted both classical and new theatre to Dunedin audiences. The Globe was the first theatre in Australasia to produce Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and held regular performances of works by Shakespeare, Sophocles, Moliere and Ibsen.

However, by 1973 the Careys were drained after 12 years running a theatre on a shoestring budget and the lack of privacy of living in a house which doubled as a theatre. The couple separated and Mrs Carey returned to Wellington, where she continued teaching, writing and acting for several years, before moving to Whangarei.  Mr Carey died in Gore in 2006.

In 1999, Mrs Carey’s history of the Globe, A Theatre in the House: The Carey’s Globe, was published by University of Otago Press. She later published another memoir, It’s Not What You Know, about her experiences as a writer, director and actress in Britain and New Zealand.

Mrs Carey last visited Dunedin in April 2007, aged 86, to promote the autobiography. She was still acting at that time and, in 2009, was awarded the Insignia of a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the theatre.

She kept writing and teaching until shortly before her death, aged 90, in Whangarei this month, and was active in fundraising for organisations like the Red Cross, Writers in Prison, the Cancer Society and Greenpeace.

She was a member of the Humanist Society of New Zealand, Playwrights Association of New Zealand, the Whangarei Writers Workshop and an honorary life member of the New Zealand Society of Authors.

Rosalie Carey’s legacy continues at the Globe Theatre, which continues to host plays today, half a century on. She is survived by her children, Chris and Belinda, and three grandchildren.

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