Foundation Head of the Theatre Studies Department at UNE and important figure in the university’s community, Christopher Ross-Smith, passed away on the 3rd of August, 2021.
Christopher will be remembered fondly for years to come for the positive influence he played at the University of New England and the effect he had on its students and community. Chris taught actors and directors over many decades on four continents and was well-respected by students for his teaching, knowledge and stewardship of theatre.
Chris was appointed the first Deputy Director at NIDA in 1974 when the students there included Judy Davis, Steve Bisley and Mel Gibson. He had been invited to come to UNE to re-establish a Theatre Studies Department in 1977, and continued until 1996. Christopher succeeded to the extent that it became a benchmark for such departments throughout Australia.
Christopher is well-known amongst the acting fraternity in Armidale as an actor in Equus, End Game and King Lear, and for being a hands-on supporter of the Arts. Chris helped establish a Cultural Centre in Armidale, and was its first coordinator. He also founded the Armidillos Theatre Company in 1985, and was part of a group that ran the Armidale Biennial Arts Festival for 10 years 1978 – 1988.
Christopher wrote a chapter on theatre in New England, with his wife, Judith Ross-Smith (attributed in the book as Judith Lamb), for the book High Lean Country.
In 2009 his service to the performing arts, and the community of the Armidale region was acknowledged when he received an OAM.
These are just some of his achievements. Chris truly made many contributions to the university and to Armidale, and for this we thank and remember him.
Chris is survived by Judith and his two daughters with his former wife Astrid Blake, Imogen and Sci.
For those looking for more information on Christopher’s service, you can find more here.
A lovely man and an epic protagonist in my own life at UNE – as a rather shy Drama student (1983-1987), I loved his stories , that could touch on any aspect of the theatrical field – from learning lines on London buses in the 60s, to Peter Brook’s epic productions, to Commedia Dell’arte, 18th century French theatre, or to the strange world of Antonin Artaud. The theatre came alive when Christopher Ross-Smith recounted it! In tandem with Dr Geoff Borny, CRS made the world of drama a magical place. To all past and present staff and students of the UNE Drama Dept – I think we are all the richer for our contact with this marvellous man. It’s too late for me to express my gratitude Christopher, but I’ll do it via this message, in hope that your ex-colleagues will accept some of it on your behalf (and theirs!).
Anthony Wesley (now living in France).
I have just seen this message, and I hope too that some of Chris’s ex-colleagues have seen it , as it encapsulates his outstanding ability as a teacher. He was also an outstanding actor remembered for his performances in Equus, and especially as a fearsome King Lear. He was my husband since 2008, but I had known him since he first arrived at UNE in 1977 to establish a ‘Drama Department’ – later Theatre Studies, as you know. At that time I was the town representative on the University Theatres Committee and we welcomed him to the University at a cocktail party or some such. I was Judith Lamb and presumably during the time you were at UNE I managed the University Bookshop (the Co-op). Involved in the theatre myself I wrote a history of theatre in Armidale Never Whistle in the Dressing Room (2005, Kardoorair Press) for which Chris gave me his view of the Department and together we contributed a chapter on theatre in New England in High Lean Country Alan Atkinson et al (ed) (2006 Allen and Unwin).
I just wanted to say thank you for posting this wonderful tribute. His life was cut off far too early. What do you do in France? Are you acting? My email address, which they say will not be published is email@example.com