Friday, March 9, 2007
Internationalist … Lindzee Smith enjoyed success in New York. Photo: Patrick Cummins
March 6, 2007
Lindzee Smith, 1940-2007
LINDZEE SMITH, a founding member of the Australian Performing Group, was an actor-director and dedicated avant-gardist of the theatre.
Bearing the tag "Ironman", having once won a Bellarine Peninsula endurance event, Smith has died after a long illness. He was 66.
Smith first trod the boards in a 1966 production of August Strindberg's There are Crimes and Crimes. The play featured others prominent in the Australian theatre - the co-star was Lindy Davies and it was directed by Richard Murphet.
In those days, the emergence of La Mama was all the go and Smith, along with Max Gillies, Peter Cummins, Bruce Spence, Sue Ingleton, Evelyn Krape, Jane Clifton and others were soon to board that underground flagship, the Pram Factory.
If the company you keep is a measure of your worth, Smith, as an actor-director, had the knack of befriending notables. Based in New York in the 1980s and '90s, he wined and dined and spawned projects with James Purdy, the ageing Tennessee Williams, and the poet Gregory Corso. The actor and playwright Sam Shephard and the film director Jim Jarmusch admired his work.
Smith was born in Geelong and attended Geelong College before doing arts at both Monash and Melbourne universities, where he took up acting.
As a schoolboy he was a keen sportsman and "always into stunts", according to his brother Garth. He had a fraught relationship with Martyn Buntine, the principal at Geelong College, over what he perceived was religious discrimination: when the pope died, he sarcastically painted "Cardinal Buntine for Pope" in large letters on the tennis court. He was also caned for nailing a toilet seat to the chair the principal used for school assembly.
Smith was arrested outside the United States consulate in Melbourne during the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. Ironically, he faced Garth, a policeman on the front line at the demonstration, who agreed with his brother's position but was sworn to uphold the law.
In the Melbourne of the 1960s and '70s, Smith worked with Australian writers such as Alex Buzo, Jack Hibberd, John Romeril and Daniel Keene.
Smith directed the group Nightshift, which began as an ensemble within the Pram Factory and went on to make its mark in Sydney, Perth and New York.
A dedicated internationalist, he revisited past productions, including plays by Orton, Brenton, Fassbinder and Handke. The classical repertoire did not escape his attentions, with productions of works by Brecht, Ibsen and Sophocles.
He was a good sportsman, too, who competed at state level as a swimmer, surfed and played football.
Smith, who was divorced, is survived by his sons Andrew and Daniel, his mother, Maisie, and brother, Garth.
Mike Mullins, John Romeril