Staff Spotlight – Phil Sumner

Drama teacher, Phil Sumner brings a wealth of practical industry experience to his role at Braemar College.Braemar Staff spotlight logo

The Big Time. Network 10

The Big Time. Network 10

Many may recognise Phil from the parts he has played in a number of iconic Australian television, film and live productions.

Phil spent 25 years as an actor and was a founding member of the Australian Shakespeare Company operating out of the Botanic Gardens.

He started life as an English/drama teacher before being accepted into the Victorian College of the Arts in 1976.

Hard labour, Mate. Old Melbourne Gaol

Hard labour, Mate. Old Melbourne Gaol

Back then the philosophy of VCA was to train theatre workers for community theatre – to take theatre back to the people.  This led to the starting of a number of smaller fringe theatre companies in suburban areas including WEST theatre company operating out of Moonee Ponds which became an important part of Phil’s life for about 5 or 6 years.

After graduating from VCA, Phil worked as a freelance actor, writer and director. He did a lot of writing for Kite theatre company in Brisbane.

Twelfth Night, Australian Shakespeare Company

Twelfth Night, Australian Shakespeare Company

Black Cargo. Melbourne Workers Theatre

Black Cargo. Melbourne Workers Theatre

Phil has worked for many major theatre companies and he has done a lot of television.

He says, he prefers theatre to television.

It’s live, happening.  You get an instant response from the audience. It’s especially rewarding if it’s material you are creating.

Phil who had a regular role in The Good Times as the wacky next door neighbour, enjoys both comedy and dramatic acting.

Dream. RBC

Dream. RBC


One of the things he loves most about teaching is the opportunity to mentor kids who want to be actors.

Phil has been at Braemar College since 2002 and says that it’s a great privilege to be a teacher. He enjoys drama because it deals with subject matter that others don’t deal with – heart, head and human emotions.

He says, the kids at Braemar College are great.

A walk from car to staffroom can change your day just the interaction and banter with the kids.

Kids devising own stuff for performance and can’t be beaten.

wind in the willows. melbourne botanic gardens - Copy

Wind in the Willows – Melbourne Botanic Gardens

According to Phil, teaching doesn’t vary a lot from performing.

In the classroom you’re still relating to and communicating with an audience on a daily basis.

A number of Phil’s students have gone on to become actors and attend colleges like VCA.

In his spare time, Phil reads a lot and watches movies. He admits to being a movie buff and says he particularly loves old movies.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Adelaide

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Adelaide

He is currently enjoying writing a history of WEST theatre company.

The Westside Show - West Theatre

The Westside Show – West Theatre

Phil’s advice to kids who are genuinely determined to have a career in performance is to work hard, and learn as much as they can through degree and short courses with VCA NIDA and WAPA.

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Melbourne Botanic Gardens

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Melbourne Botanic Gardens





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