“A Colourful Stage of Remembrance”

2019 Exhibition at The Capital Theatre, Bendigo, Vic.


Early in 2019 I started researching the history of the Capital Theatre Bendigo from its construction as the Masonic Hall in 1873 to the refurbishment in the 1970’s.

I acknowledge the assistance from volunteers from the Bendigo Historical Society at Specimen Cottage and their archival location at Nolan St, also the Bendigo Theatre Company and the Arts Officer Rohan Phillips.

The exhibition was in the foyer of the Capital Theatre from in 9 November  until 9 December “A Colourful Stage of Remembrance” their were nine textile artworks on display.

I selected persons of interest or events that have taken place over the ninety years or so history. The works include, William Vahland, The Barnet Glass Cycle Road Race in 1912, Amy Eliza Castles, the theatres first producer Mr Norman Lee and many others.


The Barnet Glass Cycle Road Race  16 November 1912

The New Britannia
Sole Proprietor – J.L.LeBreton

Tonight – our new program including the Bendigo to Melbourne Bicycle Race  taken on Saturday morning by International Pictures
of the crowd at London Hotel, the officials and our Mayor.

Evening starter – The Race En Route Bicycle Race – tonight Main film – “Burning Love and Flaring Hate” thriller-drama

Price to see film sixpence
At the Masonic Hall

Over the years there had been many name changes for the Masonic Hall, it was used as a Cinema from at least 1909. The space was least by West Pictures in 1912 and renamed The New Britannia then the Capital in 1930’s. The Masonic Hall closed in 1920’s, it lost it’s liquor license.

ref: Leader (Melbourne Vic; 1862-1935), Saturday 16 November 1912,

The riders will be sent off by the mayor of Bendigo, Cr. J. H. Curnow, at 10:30am, at the starting point London Hotel, Golden Square Bendigo and the first flight are expected to arrive at the winning post, Lincolnshire Arms Hotel, North Essendon, at 2:30pm.

Two hundred and thirty riders are expected to face the starter. Riders will be supplied with chocolate and with hot nourishing soup, on arrival at Woodend. Flags will be posted at all the dangerous spots on the route, and riders are particularly warned of Corscrew Hill, which in itself is dangerous but at the bottom, round the bend, the bridge and approaches have been damaged by the recent rains and time has not permitted of it being properly repaired.

The scratch division comprised of Don Kirkham, C. Snell, G. Bell and J.C.Keenan with the eventual winner, Don Kirham completing the race in (96miles) 5hrs. 15 mins 48sec.

Ref: Bendigo Adviser 18 November 1912
(Under Amusements)



GRAND Complimentary Concert will be tendered to Mr.1. H. Bryan by the leading vocalists of Bendigo; Misses Maud Reid, Ilansen-Knarhoi, Eathomc and Vida Rogers, Lovio Mueller, Amy Castles, Marion Jones and May Moorhead, Dr.Long, Messrs. W. Tinkler, A, Hosking, R. Rule, Bottoms, W. Cahill and Miss Regina Nagel, of Melbourne.

Tickets 2s, 1s


Amy Eliza Castles, dramatic soprano, was born on 25 July 1880 at Melbourne, eldest child of Joseph Castles, printer, and his wife Mary Ellen, née Fallon, both Victorian-born. In the early 1880s the family moved to Bendigo where Amy was educated at St Kilian’s primary school and then at St Mary’s College.

Amy’s talent was discovered by E. Allan Bindley while she was still at school. He became her teacher and directed one of her earliest public performances in a local production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, in October 1898. Next year, on 16 March, she made her début in Melbourne at the annual meeting of the Austral Salon. The ‘magnificent quality’ of her voice astonished her audience and public concerts were immediately arranged: the ‘slip of a girl in a simple white frock’ with her hair down to her shoulders created a sensation, although her promotion was not without its critics. To help raise money for overseas tuition she toured Australia and, backed by an unprecedented sum of £4000, left in September to study with Madame Marchesi in Paris. Alarmed when Marchesi attempted to produce her as a contralto, Amy left her to study with Jacques Bouhy.

In November 1901 she made her first London appearance at a St James’s Hall concert with Ada Crossley and Clara Butt, and was enthusiastically received. In 1902 she returned to Australia to tour for J. C. Williamson; 20,000 attended her farewell concert at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. After further study in Europe, she reappeared in London in 1905 at Queen’s Hall concerts and in 1906 gave a command performance before King Edward VII.

ref: Australian Dictionary of Biography by Theres Radic
This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, 1979

Castles, Amy Eliza  1880–1951


Vahland was one of Bendigo’s oldest pioneers, an architect by profession and designed many of Bendigo’s prominent public and private building. He was secretary of the Golden and Corinthian Freemason’ Lodge in Bendigo from 1863 – 1894.

The former Masonic Hall was constructed in View Street, Bendigo in 1873-1874 for both public and private use. Designed by prolific Bendigo architects, Vahland and Getzschmann, the building contained lodge rooms, a public tavern and a concert hall,

The Volunteer Rifles’ Orderly Room became a picture gallery in 1890.

It was subsequently used as a cinema, with films shown from at least 1909. The space was leased by West’s Pictures in 1912 and renamed The New Britannia, then the Capitol Theatre c.1930 (later the Capital Theatre)

In 1890, a time many saw as the golden years of live theatre in Bendigo, the Masons undertook a major refurbishment and the Masonic Theatre was built.

Ref: Victorian Heritage Database Report
Report generated 15/06/19

William Charles Vahland  1828 – 1915

The Lady of Lyons

Performance Wednesday 30th May 1894
Masonic Hall

There was a very good attendance at the Masonic Hall last evening to witness the first appearance in public of the recently formed Bendigo Literary and Dramatic Society, who produced Lytton’s beautiful drama,

“The Lady of Lyons” in aid of a local charity.

The society was formed about 9 months ago, Pauline, the Lady of Lyons, was played by Miss E Wallace. The musical was by Northcott’s Orchestra Band in first-class style, Mr J. Northcott occupying his usual position as conductor and Mr. O. Flight as first violinist.

It is expected that the performance, which was under the patronage of the mayor, Mr D B Lazarus, M.L.A the Liederlafel German Singing Society and the The Australian Natives’ Association( A.N.A.) will result in a fair sum being raised for the charitable institution. Mr J. Pasco, the president and Mr. M J E Stapleton, the Hon.,  Secretary, worked hard to ensure the success of the undertaking.


The Lady of Lyons is a five act romantic melodrama written in 1838 by Edward Buller-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton.

It was produced in London at Convent Gardens Theatre on 15 February 1838 and was revived many times over in t the rest of the 19th century. It was adapted into two operas, and formed a part of the plot of an operetta.

Ref: Bendigo Adviser Vic Thursday 31st May 1894

Selma Braatz appeared at the Britannia Theatre, Masonic Hall  on 21st  February 1914




A fair audience greeted the debut of the “Dominoes” at the Masonic Hall on Saturday evening not withstanding that the early part of the evening was warm.

This company will appear at the britannia, in addition to Miss Selma Braatz, the lady juggler, and a high-class release of picture films.

Miss Selma Braatz made her first appearance at the Britannia on Saturday night, and made a most favourable impression with a large crowd of spectators. This you lady, after years of strenuous practice and perseverance, has reached an unassailable position in the juggling world. She juggles and balances all and sundry, with perfect ease and confidence, and other tricks depart greatly from ordinary juggling feats. She obtained a splendid reception.

A full orchestra is in attendance, and with the threes combined shows patrons are promised a good run for their money this week at the Britannia.


Her career began at age 15, when her aunt Clara Braatz, a famous soap bubble juggler, began training her. Selma made her juggling debut at the Corso Theatre in Zurich two years later. Four years later she went to America and eventually was invited to perform on all five continents.

She was the first female juggler who demonstrated typical male juggling skills, and she did this in a scenic display. As the curtain opened Braatz was reclining in a hammock reading a book. Her assistant handed her tennis balls and a racket, and Braatz balanced the racket on her forehead and juggled with the three balls.

Ref: Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918), Monday 23 February 1914, page 6
(Under Amusements)
selma closeup 5small

Selma Braatz   1885 – 1973

Madge Welch, ballet & wardrobe mistress and Assistant producer for the Capital Theatre in the 1950’s.

Madge lived in a flat above the Capital Theatre for ten years at that time it was along one side of the Masonic Hall building, her dance studio dubbed “The Dungeon”, was below the level of the entrance to the Masonic Hall and one corner was actually beneath the ticket window.

She was assistant producer at The Capital Theatre for Brigadoon in 1977 and Carousal 1963.

She wrote two books ‘A Stage of Remembrance’ – A “Capital”  View of The Bendigo Operatic Society from its inception in 1952 (now Bendigo Theatre Company) and Act Two from 1962 to 1979.

Madge was frequently in the Theatre, auditorium, wardrobe and dressing rooms.

Madge Welch  was a girl guide with the 1st Bendigo company and one of 18 girls that enrolled on 2nd June 1923 with the Girl guides Association of Vitoria Bendigo District.

ref : Madge E Welch – A Stage of Remembrance’ – A “Capital”  View of The Bendigo Operatic Society from its inception in 1952
madge flowers small

Madge Welch Deceased

madge closeup small file

Mr Lee a well-known Melbourne Producer was invited to a meeting in June 1952 to disuse the possibility of producing Light Opera in Bendigo.

In July 1952  an interim committee was appointed and July 25 1952 the Bendigo Operatic Society was formed, now the Bendigo Theatre Company.

Their first production was The Chocolate Soldier. It was staged at the Capital Theatre and opening night, March 17th 1953, it was a huge success.

Norman Lee was the producer of 18 Productions from 1953-59 and 4 Productions 1960-61.

Earlier in the New Year of 1962 he became ill and passed away on January 6, 1962.

His sudden death was a shock to Bendigo as well as Theatre Colleagues in Melbourne and elsewhere.

ref : Madge E Welch – A Stage of Remembrance’ – A “Capital”  View of The Bendigo Operatic Society from its inception in 1952

Mr Norman LeeDied January 6, 1962

norman small

“Merry Widow” Brilliant 1965

From Bendigo Advertiser.

Bendigo Operatic Society’s presentation of Franz Lehar’s “Merry Widow” which opened to a packed house at the Capital Theatre last night, is perhaps one of the most polished performances.

Produced by Cid Ellwood , it is the second presentation of the “Widow” by the Society.

The lead roles were handled with dexterity by Valerie McCracken, the widow; Des Duguid, as Prince Danilo; Vin De Araugo, as Camille De Jolidon; Fred Trewarne, as Baron Popoff, and Patricia Lyon, as Baroness PopoffThe Bendigo Concert Orchestra, under the baton of Mr. Quirke,  brought out the magic of the music.

All in all, ‘The Merry Widow” is a credit to producer Ellwood- a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show.

ref: Madge Welch ‘A Stage of Remembrance’ – A “Capital”View of The Bendigo Operatic Society from its inception in 1952 (now Bendigo Theatre Company) and Act Two from 1962 to 1979.

The Geisha, theatre program, 1968, paper, ink

‘We made a change in our program format for this Musical. At their suggestion, the advertising department (art division) of the Bendigo Institute of Technology, used the setting up and lay-out of the Program as a practical example of their Course. We enjoyed the different “new look” and we understand they enjoyed doing it.’

from the Bendigo Advertiser, June 22 1968


Outstanding actors and singers were the McCracken girls – Valerie and Patricia, Fred Lorenz scored in comedy and John Boquest as the upright English Lieutenant R.N.

The four Geisha girls (Peg Green, Marie Areddi, Artery Reed and Pat Lyon) demonstrated their ability to the full in a faultless sung “Entrance of the Geisha”.

The costumes must be seen to be believed, – they are fabulous. The ‘English Ladies” stared in their “Hat and Dress” parade thought the three-hour show, and the members of the senior service wore their uniforms with aplomb.A


ref:Madge Welch
‘A Stage of Remembrance’ – A “Capital”  View of The Bendigo Operatic Society from its inception in 1952 (now Bendigo Theatre Company) and Act Two from 1962 to 1979.