JOHN KRUMMEL OAM
John Krummel OAM, actor, director and theatre administrator has passed away leaving another gap in our theatre pantheon.
Krummel as he was affectionately known, was born in 1944 in Broken Hill. After a childhood in Wagga Wagga he became an early graduate of NIDA and went on to have a distinguished acting career with Sydney’s Old Tote Theatre and the legendary Nimrod.
In July 1969 in Melbourne, Krummel and fellow actor Charles Little were surprised by Vice Squad detectives who served them with summonses in the foyer of the Playbox Theatre. They were charged with using obscene language in a public place for uttering the ‘f and c-words’ in the course of Mart Crowley’s infamous play The Boys In The Band. As Krummel said “ It was a bolt out of the blue. It seems a bit surprising, because the show has been running here for some time.”
The actors subsequently appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where the Magistrate dismissed the charges as ‘trifling.’ The Vice Squad appealed to the Supreme Court and Producer Harry M. Miller, who had brought the play to Australia, pointed out that 72,000 people had seen the production since its opening in June, and not one had complained to members of his staff, his switchboard or the Vice Squad. The result was that the sold-out show toured nationally to critical acclaim.
Krummel’s busy acting career included numerous television and film roles including Deathcheaters (1976), One Night Stand (1984) and Voyage Into Fear (1993). His acclaimed portrayal of President Wilson in President Wilson in Paris in the 1973 production was one of many at the original Nimrod Street Theatre.
Krummel also forged a career as a director. In 1978 he joined the Queensland Theatre Company as resident director. His productions with QTC included a memorable season of The Man Who Came To Dinner starring the inimitable Frank Thring. Other productions included Blithe Spirit, The Front Page, Richard III, The Playboy of the Western World, Gypsy, Habeas Corpus, Cherry Orchard and Big Toys.
In 1982 he returned to Sydney where he took over the reins of Killara’s Marian Street Theatre, a role he relished in the spirit of the great Actor Managers of the past. Under Krummel’s guidance Marian Street became a theatre of opportunity for many young directors and actors. Future STC Artistic Director Wayne Harrison and Arts Administrator Michael Huxley both honed their careers there as well as a role call of marvellous actors. Sir Ron Haddrick and Dame Ruth Cracknell played at Marian Street including Cracknell in a solo piece, John Upton’s Machiavelli, Machiavelli.
Nancye Hayes starred in numerous productions including the musical Dames at Sea and a controversial trilogy of plays Death Defying Acts that drew shocked gasps from some of the audience as Nancye said, “Some of the lines were rather .., ripe”. Krummel was also the first director to cast her in comedic roles and she played in several Neil Simon classics including Broadway Bound.
Tony Sheldon has fond memories of appearing in The Chalk Circle at Marian St with Googie Withers and John McCallum as well as A Long Day’s Journey Into Night when he was a very young actor. He was also paired with John Hannon in the female version of The Odd Couple where they brought the house down as Spanish brothers living in the apartment above Amanda Muggleton and Kerry McGuire playing the odd couple. Sheldon jokes that he closed Marian Street when he replaced John Krummel due to his illness, in a role written for him, in Nick Enright’s A Poor Student. It was the last play to be staged before the theatre shuttered in 2001.
Krummel was known for his canny programming and always kept a surprise production under wraps. If he felt the season had been too experimental he announced a crowd pleaser, if it had been a great success he programmed a new work or new writing.
As Nancye Hayes said “He took great writing and put it out for people to enjoy.”
Michael Huxley in a social media post summed him up:
“Krummel was many things.
A savvy programmer able to balance a season to both entertain and provoke
A consummate character actor. I don't think he was ever happier than when subsumed under another role.
A supporter of talent. If he liked what you did he would give you opportunity
A creature of the theatre
A king in his kingdom. (Though some may prefer the term dictator)
He wasn't the easiest of people to work with.
And now he is no longer with us.
I have much to be thankful to Krummel for. Much I learned from him. He took a chance with me as a composer, sound designer and general manager.
Good speed sir. “
In the Australia Day 2003 Honours List, John was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, for service to the arts, particularly through the Marian Street Theatre.
Vale John Krummel