Performing Arts Collection
Handspan Theatre
Handspan Theatre

Company History

Ken Evans, Andrew Hansen, Helen Rickards, Maeve Vella, Peter Wilson and Christine Woodcock formed the co-operative in 1977 known as Hansdpan Theatre. This company is best known for resurrecting traditional puppetry techniques and exploring new forms of theatrical expression via visual imagery. Through costume, set design and the manipulation of puppets, Handspan proved that language was not always needed in order to tell a good story.

Handspan created over 40 productions for the stage, as well as for other site specific venues such as schools, libraries and parks. The company collaborated with a vast range of associated artists, musicians and writers to produce works for cabaret, community festivals, and parades.

Based in Melbourne, Handspan toured extensively throughout Australia and overseas, performing to audiences in the United Kingdom, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Canada, China, Japan, Colombia, Venezuela, Indonesia, Thailand and the United States, winning the UNESCO art award in Colombia for Ariette Taylor's adaptation of Pablo Picasso's play Four Little Girls.

After 25 years of operation, government funding to Handspan was not renewed and the company closed in 2002. Handspan's commitment to extending the boundaries of visual and object theatre has lead to the development of a truly unique body of work.

Collection Holdings

From the 1990s to early 2000, Handspan  Theatre made regular donations to the Performing Arts Collection.

The company history is documented through detailed administration records, production material, programmes, publicity, photographs and puppets. In 2003 former company member, Lizz Talbot Lethlean, prepared a document for the Performing Arts Collection detailing Handspan productions from its inception in 1977 to 2002. The four-part document can be viewed below.

In tune with the Handspan ethos, the puppets that are represented in the collection are instrumental in understanding the inspiration, artistry and innovation known as Handspan.

Series 1 : Productions 1977 - 2001
The series contains all the material associated with the productions generation, performance & touring performances, including to schools.
Series 2 : Company Management 1977 - 2001
This series contains the company’s administrative documents including Board and other meeting minutes and reports. It contains membership and organisational details, financial and grant applications, also company promotional material
Series 3 : Other Company Activities 1977 - 1999
The company designed, constructed and manipulated puppets, taught puppetry in workshops and master classes and Handspans puppets were featured in various exhibitions Below is the numbering scheme used to categorize the material. .3000.001 Puppet festivals Teaching puppetry workshops & masterclasses
Series 4 : Company History 1977 – 2003
This series contains lists and other material documenting Handspan Theatre Company Productions.