Coppin the Great

Father of the Australian Theatre

Alec Bagot
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Coppin the Great

Father of the Australian Theatre

Alec Bagot
George Seith Coppin (1819-1906), known as 'father of the Australian Theatre', a 'low comedian', was also impresario, adventurer, politician and philanthropist. This biography is based mainly on material made available by the late Miss Lucy Coppin: her father's books, journals, biographical notes, press cut-tings, playbills, and Coppin's personal letters From an early age he acted with his parents in a troupe of strolling players in England and the colour-and uncertainties-of this life are vividly described. At 16 he chose in-dependence and appearances in provincial England, London, and Ireland followed. In 1842, accompanied by an American actress, he migrated to Australia where, in tours of the separate colonies, George's acumen gave them starring roles and excellent receipts. As well as acting and managing, Coppin pro-moted such ventures as a zoo, roller skating, hot sea-water baths and a railway line. He was a devoted husband and parent and his philanthropic activities were…
George Seith Coppin (1819-1906), known as 'father of the Australian Theatre', a 'low comedian', was also impresario, adventurer, politician and philanthropist. This biography is based mainly on material made available by the late Miss Lucy Coppin: her father's books, journals, biographical notes, press cut-tings, playbills, and Coppin's personal letters. From an early age he acted with his parents in a troupe of strolling players in England and the colour-and uncertainties-of this life are vividly described. At 16 he chose in-dependence and appearances in provincial England, London, and Ireland followed. In 1842, accompanied by an American actress, he migrated to Australia where, in tours of the separate colonies, George's acumen gave them starring roles and excellent receipts. As well as acting and managing, Coppin pro-moted such ventures as a zoo, roller skating, hot sea-water baths and a railway line. He was a devoted husband and parent and his philanthropic activities were legion. Twice elected to the Victorian Legislative Council, in 1858 and 1889, Coppin was also a member of the Legislative Assembly for nine years 1874 to 1889, with a break 1877-1883.

He built six theatres, including one pre-fabricated in England. He made three for-tunes and lost two, restoring them through stage tours. He toured the Victorian gold-fields and New Zealand and, later, with Charles and Ellen Kean, America. This visit coincided with a presidential election and the assassination of President Lincoln.

Alec Bagot

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