Sir Robert Helpmann as Oberon

Let the National Library entertain you with On Stage: Spotlight on Our Performing Arts. There’s no business like show business, and this exhibition brings Australia’s performing arts history into the limelight.  

The Australian stage has seen it all, from theatre, opera and dance to musicals, magic and hip hop, featuring household names like Sir Robert Helpmann, Dame Nellie Melba, Peter Allen, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Tim Minchin and the Hilltop Hoods. 

On Stage also provides a backstage pass to the action behind the scenes, showcasing perspectives on stage direction, costume design, scripts, contracts and musical scores used by performers.

Presented together for the first time and drawing exclusively from the collections of the National Library, the exhibition features items that have never before been on display. Other highlights include the earliest surviving Australian printed document, selections from the JC Williamson theatre archives, and other contemporary live music and theatre posters. 

Whether you prefer to take a front row seat, tread the boards, or stagedive into the moshpit, there is something for every fan to see. Join the Library onsite during your visit, and receive a special souvenir Library Card featuring a portrait of Sir Robert Helpmann. 

The exhibition is on now and will run until Sunday 7 August, exclusive to Canberra. Entry is free, no booking required. 

On Stage: Spotlight on Our Performing Arts was curated by Dr Susannah Helman, NLA Curator of Rare Books and Music. 

See the exhibition  Read about the exhibition

Information for media

Image at top: Houston Rogers, Portrait of Sir Robert Helpmann as Oberon [detail], 1954,