William Gerard Brown
11 January 1952
Biloela, Queensland, Australia
|Died||13 January 2013 (aged 61)|
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Alma mater||University of Queensland|
|Awards||Member of the Order of Australia|
Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland and studied drama at the University of Queensland. He began his career in the early 1970s at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside Geoffrey Rush. He was openly gay.
Brown's career took him abroad to Britain, where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play – The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened at the Barbican Theatre (RSC's home theatre from 1982–2002) and had a Royal Command Performance. As a member of the RSC (between 1976–1982, 1986–88 and 1994–96) Brown toured with their productions throughout Europe, playing Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Munich. He also appeared in the RSC's premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award in 1988.
While working in the United Kingdom, Brown also performed in the West End, at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres, the Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. While performing onstage at Stratford he was spotted by John Cleese, who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.
In New York, Brown made his Broadway debut as an actor in 1986 in Michael Frayn's Wild Honey with Ian McKellen, directed by Christopher Morahan, and as a playwright with his adaptation of a benefit performance of A Christmas Carol in 1985, featuring Helen Hayes, Len Cariou as Scrooge, MacIntyre Dixon, Celeste Holm, Raúl Juliá, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harold Scott, Carole Shelley, and Fritz Weaver, directed by W. Stuart McDowell. He was also an Artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982.
Bille Brown was a visiting Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Brown returned to Australia to live permanently in 1996. He had an outstanding career on stage and performed for many leading Australian theatre companies, including Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian St Theatre, La Boite and the Old Tote Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.
In 1996, he directed the Australian stage production of Hugh Lunn's Over the Top with Jim, which exceeded box office expectations. He had huge success with his role as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush, which opened the new Playhouse in Brisbane in September 1998. In 1999 he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in the Belvoir St production of David Hare's The Judas Kiss.
The same year he accepted an offer to be Adjunct Professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, and gave workshops and master classes for drama students.
In 2009, Brown wrote and performed in Queensland Theatre Company's The School of Arts. The play follows the story of the old 'College Players' who toured Shakespeare through Queensland in the late 1960s.
Brown died from bowel cancer on 13 January 2013, two days after his 61st birthday. After a private funeral, a public memorial service was held at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on 4 February 2013. The eulogy was delivered by longtime friend and colleague Geoffrey Rush.