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Marie-Louise Thiersch (1916-1992)
Papers 1961-1985

MSS 0039

Biographical Note

Born in Düsseldorf in 1916, Marie-Louise Mathilde (Marlis) Thiersch attended school in both Germany and China.  As part of the German army, her father had been stationed in China during the First World War.  When the War was over, Marie-Louise and her brother, aged just five and six, joined him in China, along with their mother.  The children were sent to boarding schools and also received private tuition, with Marie-Louise excelling at languages.

In 1939 Thiersch travelled to Australia, settling in Adelaide.  She enrolled in an Arts Degree at the University of Adelaide in 1960, initially taking German I, for which she earned a Distinction and the Weimar-Ohlstrom Prize.  The following year she studied Education, French, German and Older German Language and Literature, winning the Prize for a second time.  By 1962 she had also received the A. J. Schulz Prize for German III, and in 1965 was conferred a B.A. (Hons.) for her thesis Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Lustspiele und die Wiener Theatertradition.  In 1966 she was accepted as a candidate for the Master of Arts and, just two years later, was awarded the degree for her thesis Der Schwierige, von Hugo von Hofmannsthal als Lustpiel…, an interpretation of Hofmannsthal’s comedic play, ‘The difficult gentleman’.

Throughout her studies, Thiersch worked at the University, initially as Tutor in German (1963-67) and then as Senior Tutor (1968-69).  She also taught German Language and Literature at the University of New South Wales, and it was here that she pursued another passion, theatre.  She was a committed promoter of Australian playwriting and lectured in the Australian Theatre Studies Programme in the University’s School of Drama from 1974 until her retirement.  In 1977, with Philip Edward Parson, Thiersch co-founded what is now the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA), and from 1979 directed the Australian branch of the International Theatre Institute, publishing the ITI newsletter and promoting Australian theatre’s international contacts.  She was also an enthusiastic foundation member of the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference, organising nine of its annual conferences.

In addition to the papers listed below, Thiersh amassed a substantial collection of theatre programmes during her lifetime, donating more than 300 individual items to the Library.  Spanning the genres of ballet, music, opera, circus, dance, festivals, film and theatre, both Australian international, they augment the Theatre Collection and the programme collections of Cornell, Crouch, Locantro, Robertson, Silsbury and Symon.


Series 1: Personal photographs, programme of commemoration ceremony, University of New South Wales, 1975, at which the degree of Ph.D. was conferred.

Series 2: Personal correspondence (with some notes and other papers). 1961-2, 1965-7, 1970-1, 1974-5, 1977-9.

Series 3: Lecture/course/research notes, reading lists, etc.

  1. General, mostly 1960s, 1970s
  2. German theatre, mostly 1960s
  3. Australia theatre, mostly 1970s
    See also Series 5

Series 4: Study leave [1975] papers - application, itinerary, report, with related correspondence, notes and papers on courses and theatres, collected during the leave. 1973-75.

Series 5: Journal articles and cuttings on theatre, individual playrights and playwriting.

  1. Australian c. 1968-87 (many undated)
  2. German 1962, 1974-80 (many undated)
  3. General 1968-76.

Series 6: Papers relating to Australian National Playwrights Conferences - programmes, minutes, reports, publicity, plays workshopped. 1973-77.

Series 7: Australian Centre, International Theatre Institute - reports, press releases, newsletters. 1974-76.
[Includes report of the 16th ITT Congress, West Berlin, June 1975]

Series 8: Conference on Chinese Theatre, Sydney 1983 - report, arrangements, papers read at, photographs and related papers on a proposed Chinese Centre of the ITT. 1982

Series 9: Society of Women Writers - correspondence relating to assessment of plays submitted, newsletters. 1976

Series 10: Theatre Critics Sumposium, March 1986 - programme, agenda

Series 11: Miscellaneous conference programmes. 1966-89.

Series 12: Miscellaneous reports/publications on theatre. c. 1975-85.

Series 13: Playtexts
[Colin Ballantyne Between Gunshots, J. P. Mckinney Next door,  Ray Mathew The bones of my toe (a comedy in one act), Friedrich Von Schiller Love and intrigue; or Louisa Miller]

Series 14: German theatre periodicals. 1965-79. 7 items
[Der Autor. May 1973
Bauwelt. November 1965
Bref. November 1965
Die Bühne. Jan. 1971, Jan 1979.
Die Deutsche Bühne. June 1975
Basler Theater. June 1975]

A collection of theatre, music and ballet programmes, principally from the 1970s, received with the papers, has been filed in Special Collections at Theatre 792 T3743.T

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