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Barbara Berrima Manning Ward (1920–1997)

by Zoe Furman

Barbara Berrima Manning Ward, OAM. Theatre in education and community arts leader. Born Hobart, July 2, 1920. Died Hobart, April 26, aged 76.

In the roles of actor, director, teacher and adviser to the Australia Council, Barbara Manning Ward made a far-reaching contribution to the performing arts in Australia. But it was her passionate belief in, and commitment to, theatre in education and community arts for which she will be best remembered professionally.

Her vision led to the founding in 1972 of the Tasmanian Theatre in Education Company, a role model for the establishment of many other such companies throughout Australia.

From an early age, Manning Ward's career choices reflected the love of theatre that was to endure throughout her life. She was born in Hobart in 1920 and it was there, at the age of six, that she began drama and elocution lessons with Olive Wilton.

At 17 she was already treading the boards in a production of The Petrified Forest at Hobart's Theatre Royal, her performance earning her the description of a "promising young actress" in the press. In the same year she began her radio broadcasting career, presenting a program titled We Women on Hobart's commercial station 7HT.

During the early 1940s, Manning Ward lived in Perth and Melbourne, raising a family of five children.

She returned to Hobart in 1946 and for the next 20 years performed in and directed numerous productions for the Hobart Repertory Theatre Company (where one memorable opening-night party occasioned a police raid on the illegal after-hours drinking at a local hotel). Several of the productions directed by Manning Ward — including The Happy Journey, Harlequinade and The Bespoke Overcoat were well received in local drama festivals.

In 1959, she began work with the newly established ABC television. This provided a vehicle for her to express her passion for the culinary arts on a wider stage, with a food and lifestyle program, To Market, To Market. She continued her work in radio with a variety of shows, including an arts review program for the ABC called Good, Bad and Indifferent.

The Tasmanian Theatre in Education Company, initially developed as a subsidiary of the Tasmanian Theatre Company, later became independent as Salamanca Theatre Company.

Under the directorship of Manning Ward, it quickly established a national reputation. Constant campaigning for increased State and federal government funding was successful, and in a few years her company had established a strong position for theatre in education in Tasmania.

International recognition followed, with a three-month tour of Ann Harvey's I'll Be in on That (directed by Manning Ward) to the United States in 1978. It was one of the first international tours by an Australian theatre company and was considered an audacious move at the time.

The tour resulted in a cultural exchange with the then president of the American Theatre Association, Bernard Rosenblatt. With the involvement of two local secondary schools, a research program was established in a bid to explore the best means of integrating the arts into a school curriculum. The focus of the project was the development and production of the play Annie's Coming Out by Richard Davey, which became one of the best-known pieces of Australian theatre in education and was later made into a film.

As the artistic director of Salamanca Theatre Company, Manning Ward consistently commissioned Australian playwrights and directors in her quest to develop theatre that reflected the stories, issues and concerns of young Australians.

She championed those who took risks and provided within her company a platform from which actors, directors and designers could grow and develop their craft.

She was instrumental in the establishment of the Salamanca Script Resource Centre, a farsighted project designed to collect unpublished Australian theatre scripts.

Manning Ward intended these as a resource for youth theatre, always in need of new and appealing scripts. The concept proved popular and the number of scripts held at the centre grew from seven in 1980 to more than 600 six years later. The centre still operates today as the Australian Script Centre.

Manning Ward was passionate about opportunities for young people, just as she was about regional Australia and cultural diversity. It was this vision that enabled her to make valuable contributions to the Australia Council in the 1970s, first as a member of the Performing Arts Board and later as the chair of the Community Arts Board.

Her services to the arts were acknowledged in 1981 when she was honoured with a medal of the Order of Australia.

In the 1980s, Manning Ward spent several years working as a lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and as a consultant to the National Arts and Education Program in Sydney.

She returned to Tasmania in 1988, where she continued to exercise her interest in the arts.

Several weeks before her death she attended a performance of a new Salamanca Theatre Company production, where she confided to me that she still felt a touch possessive about the company she founded.

Manning Ward was a generous friend, mentor and champion of Australian artists, and a constant advocate for the principles of cultural democracy. Her zeal and commitment to theatre for young people was an inspiration to those who worked with her. It is visionaries of her ilk who have fostered and nurtured cultural growth throughout Australia.

She is survived by her second husband, Jim Ward, and by five children.

*Zoe Furman, who works at Salamanca Theatre Company in promotion and development, first met Barbara Manning Ward after moving to Tasmania in 1994.

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Citation details

Zoe Furman, 'Manning Ward, Barbara Berrima (1920–1997)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Manning, Barbara Berrima
  • Tate, Barbara Berrima

2 July, 1920
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


26 April, 1997 (aged 76)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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