Wednesday, 26 October 2016


150 years before Hillary, there was Victoria...

Love new opera but can't get to New York's National Opera Center this Friday? No problem: Mrs President will be live-streamed and you can find out all about Victoria Woodhull, who made a bid for the presidency in 1872, decades before women were given the vote.

Woodhull not only ran for president (choosing the African-American Frederick Douglass as her running-mate) at a time when Trump's attitude towards women was the norm, she was also a Spiritualist, a Wall Street banker, the founder of a women's journal, and a proud 'free lover'. Mrs President traces her beginnings as a child psychic on the carnival circuit to national notoriety, her sex-scandal involving preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, and her legacy.

Read more about the opera.

Composer: Victoria BondLibrettist: Hilary Bell

Upcoming performance: Friday October 28, 8 pm

National Opera Center
330 7th Avenue, New York City


It is unprecedented: A woman running for President of the United States. Her detractors call her "Mrs. Satan", and claim she belongs in jail. It is 1872, and Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to make a bid for the White House. Her story is the inspiration for Victoria Bond's opera, Mrs President.


The cast features the soprano Valerie Bernhardt as Victoria Woodhull and the tenor Scott Ramsay as Henry Ward Beecher, the high-powered preacher who is determined to destroy Woodhull. The cast also includes Katrina Thurman, Joy Hermalyn, Robert Osborne and Scott Joiner, with Naomi Lewin as narrator, pianist Daniela Candillari. Victoria Bond conducts. Tickets are $20 at the door.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


7-On was amply represented at this year's Australian Writers' Guild Awards last Friday night.

Here is Hilary whacking Donna on the head, while both proudly displaying their AWGIES.
Donna won for Radio - Adaptation ('Spirit', produced by Eastside Radio), Hilary tied with Katy Warner for Children's Theatre (for 'The Red Balloon', premiered by Black Swan State Theatre Co). And Noelle was nominated for Radio - Original Work with 'The History of the Single Girl' (ABC's Radiotonic).

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of these most prestigious awards: for writers to be recognised by their peers is a great honour indeed.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Long Tan (the play)

It's the season when theatre companies release their programs for the coming year,'s the moment to wave the flag a little.

Hence, here I am giving some forward notice for the upcoming Brink Productions season of Long Tan, a semi-verbatim piece I've been working on since late 2013. This was a production that looked like being scuppered after the arts funding imbroglio in 2015 and then, in one of those paradoxical turns of events, with quick response by the SA State Arts Ministry and generosity of other arts bodies (in this case, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust both providing an umbrella for the show), and, yes, some funding from the new-born Catalyst Fund, it has been re-born, with perhaps a few more bells on it than might otherwise have been possible.

This is a piece very close to my heart. I've been researching and talking to an expanding range of Australian veterans, Vietnamese civilians and military people, family members of both and other people with insight into that war, those times, and the battle itself. It is such a loaded scenario that I expect there is no way I can please everybody, but...let's just take a deep breath and see what happens, I guess.

The play is not a conventional 'military history' or even straight verbatim record of events. The protagonist is D Company, 6RAR itself, and its 'enemy', the whole group of very young men, conscripts and regulars, Australian and Vietnamese, thrust into a situation of the kind of extremity most of us will simply never experience. Memory gets tricky at such times. There's no one 'true' story, though there is a (more-or-less) agreed sequence of events. Inevitably that, too, becomes part of the story.

This last August a previous play of mine, The Red Cross Letters, was produced by the State Theatre Company of South Australia. This was a record of the correspondence between the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau and the families of lost soldiers in World War One. It was a complicated one, too, though less complicated than Long Tan. But it seemed to hit the spot, to get the tone right, to meet the needs of its audience.

Here's to the next one! Verity

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

One of the great joys of my job as a Drama Teacher is that I get to direct plays written by fantastic Australian playwrights.
This year I have directed Victim, Sidekick, Boyfriend, Me by Hilary Bell and Circus Caravan by Donna Abela. As you know both are 7ON colleagues. It has long been an ambition of mine to see contemporary Australian work like theirs on our school's stages.
The school I am teaching at has little in the way of theatre tradition so to take on plays as inherently theatrical as these two was always going to be challenging for the students and the audience.
And so it proved.
The cast of Victim were not only dubious about me they were dubious about the play. I persisted with them and after a while the scales began to drop and they realised what a gem they had on their hands. The audience, unused to contemporary theatre, were stunned by the sheer theatricality of the piece.
It's a wonderful play and I'm pleased to say a number of productions have followed ours.
Circus Caravan is a fantastic play that extends both the cast and the director. It has a wonderful heart and is also challenging in its own way. My cast, most of whom had never been on stage before, rose to the occasion and, as they would say, "nailed it".
The audience began laughing from the opening seconds and didn't stop. Their applause said everything. After the show the cast were grinning like cheshire cats. They didn't realise what a funny play they had on their hands.
That's the thing about good writing. It creeps up on you during rehearsals. The plays become deeper and more revealing as you peel back the layers.
Sometimes its tough to get your work noticed and theatrical gems remained undiscovered.
I'm so honoured to have been able to help bring these two to life.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Lost (middle) Ground, Lost Opportunities

Who’d Be a Working Actor? It’s Not Even a Dog’s Life by actor Neil Pigot is a must-read lament for the diminishing opportunities for paid work, the loss of the artistic middle ground, radio drama … and so much else.

Read it here.

Where once were dollars, now are cents.

I (Noëlle) fear we’re heading towards a hugely polarised arts environment. Apart from a small number of people with salaried positions, we'll have a tiny number of writers and artists able to make a passable living from their work, and the vast majority of us entirely reliant on second careers to survive. Making occasional forays into the cop-op and indie sector and picking up the odd funded crumb. And I fear this will be doubly true for anyone whose work is unfashionable, niche, or at the more experimental or feral end of the arts spectrum.

As for the internet, well it’s been around for long enough for us to realise that a lot of that early talk about new platforms and opportunities for writers and artists is just that—talk. In an interview, the late, lamented Prince pointed out that while we couldn’t name one musician who made a decent living from downloads, Apple was doing very nicely, thank you.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Fine Times...

On the evening of Tuesday last, June 26th,  a quite extraordinary event took place and we Sevens thought we should mark it. At The Pavillion at the Victorian Arts Centre, Carillo and Zijin Gantner hosted a dinner in celebration of playwrights (cunningly timed for just before the PWA Fest, therefore maximising attendance). If you weren’t there, well, you were missed, but for those of us closer to the grave and hence unable to anticipate such a thing ever occurring again in our lifetimes, it was fab.

When we first heard it was on, some of us (no names, no pack drill) were prompted to say, ‘What’s the catch?’ The answer was that there wasn’t one, it was simply an act of generosity by two people who value Australian playwriting and hence…Australian playwrights.

Some of the great and good of Australian playwriting were there. The pollies were there, too, and received some flack. David Williamson gave a few serves in his keynote speech. So we did maintain the rage, as a group, but we did also have a great time meeting and greeting the only other people in the world who know EXACTLY what it feels to write words that other people have to make come alive, and the peculiar intensity of that having been the choice of a way to attempt to make a living.

And Wesley Enoch also gave a speech of great charm and appreciation of the venerable and beloved John Romeril (pictured here with his permission).

Lastly, there was something of a competition to establish a collective noun for playwrights. I lost my suggestion, which was just as well, it being close to the end of the evening. I have two that I’d like to venture, however, stolen from others. Noëlle suggested ‘a plot of playwrights’, which I think is pretty good. Someone very close to me suggested ‘a paranoia of playwrights’. I wonder why he thought of that?


Friday, 29 July 2016

Michael Gow on the Agony of Theatre

If you're at a loose end, why not snuggle up with Michael Gow's Keynote Address? Delivered a day or two ago at the National Playwrights Festival in Melbourne, you can click here to read an edited version printed in Artshub. There's much to love in this Address, including Michael's urging that we playwrights each formulate our own personal canon. Enjoy.