John Truscott’s extraordinary contribution to the arts both here and overseas is widely acknowledged today. A leading pioneer of Australian stage design, Truscott’s high standards and versatility allowed him to work across many art forms, including dance, musical comedy, film and opera. The Performing Arts Collection holds close to 300 items that chart Truscott’s rapid journey from the local stage to international stardom.

Born in Melbourne in 1936, Truscott began a career in the theatre at an early age. His first design commission was A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the National Theatre Movement in 1954. His long association with the Melbourne Little Theatre (later St Martin’s Theatre Company) began in 1957, and as resident designer, Truscott designed close to eighty productions during his six years with the company. He also began to make inroads into large-scale musical theatre with designs for productions such as Garnet H. Carroll’s The King and I (1961).

Truscott’s work for the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd production of Camelot (1963) led to an invitation to design the Hollywood film version of Camelot, released in 1967, and for which he received two Academy Awards. Two years later Truscott worked on the feature film Paint Your Wagon, starring Clint Eastwood.

After fourteen years overseas, Truscott was enticed back to Australia in 1978 to work with the Victoria State Opera, and in 1980 began designing the interiors of the Arts Centre. On completion and official opening of the Theatres building in 1984, he headed back to Los Angeles. Truscott returned to Australia as creative consultant to Brisbane’s World Expo in 1988 and as Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Spoleto Festival in 1989. At the time of his death in 1993 he was once again involved with the Arts Centre as artist-in-residence assisting with the refurbishment of the interiors for its tenth anniversary.