Marilyn: A Life On the Stage

Marilyn at the Actors Studio, 1955 (Photo by Roy Schatt)
Marilyn at the Actors Studio, 1955 (Photo by Roy Schatt)

In a thinkpiece for The Conversation, Margaret Hickey – a professor at Australia’s LaTrobe University, which ran an extension course on MM last year – asks an intriguing question: Would Marilyn’s career (and life) have been different if she had acted on stage?

“[The] drawn out Method approach is more conducive to a theatre production (which it was originally designed for) than a busy film set. The intimacy of the method, the focus on self, appealed to Monroe and she threw herself into it.

Much is made of Monroe’s drug addiction and famous lack of punctuality (few consider the similar behaviour of her co-stars and directors). But with the smaller budgets and longer rehearsal time of the theatre productions, she may have been less prone to the crippling anxiety attacks she increasingly suffered from.

Other stars of the era who managed the transition from ‘sex bomb film star’ to stage actor had a very different trajectory to Monroe. Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell, Monroe’s co-star in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, all grew tired of films that focused mainly on their figures and made the switch to stage.

A small role to begin with, an off-Broadway theatre with her Studio classmates, a lengthy rehearsal schedule – it might just have garnered Monroe the respect she craved.”

Marilyn Raises Millions in Bendigo

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Australia’s unofficial ‘year of Marilyn’ has been a resounding success, as the Bendigo Advertiser reports.

“Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition brought more than $13 million into the region, Victorian government modelling has shown.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday $13.2 million in economic impact for Bendigo was derived from the four-month exhibition, exceeding the $11.2 million benefit forecast before the show opened.

‘We knew Marilyn Monroe would be a showstopper and it was,’ she said. ‘It demonstrates [the gallery] is a facility that brings many jobs, a significant amount of funds flowing into the Bendigo community.’

More than 140,000 visitors attended the ticketed exhibition in Bendigo between March and July this year. Almost half of those people were from Melbourne, travelling to central Victoria specifically to see the Hollywood-themed show.

The total cost of showing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is unclear.

Ms Allan also said the strength of Bendigo’s gallery could inspire young people to choose an artistic career path, citing ‘strong’ art and design programs at La Trobe University as yet more evidence of the region’s creative strength.

But it was not only the Bendigo economy that benefitted from the blockbuster exhibition; the gallery’s curatorial manager Tansy Curtin said Marilyn challenged her institution artistically.

‘We went from working with fine art to working with contemporary culture.’

These new strings in her institution’s bow meant it was ‘re-defining’ what it meant to be a regional art gallery, no longer catering solely to a local audience but to national and international art-lovers as well.

Conservation work carried out during the exhibition also meant the gallery was ensure the longevity of Marilyn Monroe artifacts.

Because many of the items exhibited in the gallery were not normally showcased in a curated setting – many were kept inside the houses of their collectors before coming to Bendigo – Ms Curtin said many were returned to their owners in a better condition than when they arrived, having undergone conservation while housed in central Victoria.”

Marilyn Symposium in Melbourne, Australia

Marilyn at UCLA, 1952 (photo by Mel Traxel)
Marilyn at UCLA, 1952 (photo by Mel Traxel)

Following the ‘Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn‘ program at LaTrobe University which accompanied the Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon exhibit at MAMA Albury in Australia earlier this year, a Marilyn Monroe Symposium will be held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne  on November 12, with biographer Lois Banner as keynote speaker.

This Symposium creates a further outcome for the research undertaken by ten La Trobe University academics in preparation for Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn. Our interdisciplinary approach to the topic of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic status is unique. The intention of this Symposium is to go beyond nostalgia and offer a genuinely contemporary perspective on performance, celebrity and artistic response, as well as to make Marilyn provocative for us in our times.

Program:

Session 1: Keynote Address
9.30-11.00am The Cube, ACMI
Speaker: Professor Lois Banner

Morning tea: 11.00 – 11.30 am

Session 2: Matters of Performance
11.30am-1.00pm The Cube, ACMI
Felicity Collins; Margaret Hickey; Nicole Jenkins; Sofia Ahlberg

Lunch: 1.00 – 2.00 pm

Session 3: Image, Identity, Icon
2.00-3.30pm, The Cube, ACMI
Speakers: Sue Gillett, Kristian Haggblom, Terrie Waddell, Kevin Brianton

Afternoon tea: 3.30 – 4.00 pm

Session 4: Property, Power, Profession
4.00-5.30pm The Cube, ACMI
Tansy Curtin; Francine Rochford; Edgar Burns

Thanks to Marisa