John Sumner, founding artistic director at the Melbourne Theatre Company, died in Melbourne on Friday following a short illness.
Sumner, 88, was the longest-serving artistic director at MTC, Australia's oldest professional theatre.
MTC chairman Derek Young said John had an unparalleled place in the Australian theatre industry.
According to The Australian today, Sumner founded the MTC as the Union Theatre in 1953, and then oversaw the expansion of the company to Russell Street and Arts Centre Melbourne in the mid-80s.
'He championed the development of Australian voices and writing in theatre,' Young says. 'His passion, energy and tough professionalism set the standard and have been an inspiration for his successors.'
Sumner fostered the careers of, among others, playwrights David Williamson and Ray Lawler, whose original Summer of the Seventeenth Doll he directed for the MTC in 1955.
Sumner directed the company's first production, Jean Anouilh'sColombe, in 1953 and was artistic director in the years 1953-55 and 1959-87.