Thursday, 10 October 2019

Second Helpings

Hilary says: 
I wrote this article for Griffin's 'In Conversation'. Griffin recently produced my 2012 play Splinter.
NOTE: For the sake of this article, I mean revivals of plays written in the last 20 or so years—not yet bona fide ‘classics’.
I was astonished when Lee Lewis called me to discuss producing Splinter, because it had already had a production. It was commissioned by Sydney Theatre Company and premiered in 2012 to good reviews. But the idea of it being produced again, and in the same city, was something I hadn’t imagined.
As I sat down to write this article I looked over my body of work, starting in 1987, to see how many subsequent productions my plays have had. I didn’t count one-acts, radio plays, or plays written for youth theatres. I left out re-mounts. I excluded school, university and amateur productions, for reasons I’ll go into later. And I didn’t count unproduced work. I found that of 22 plays with a professional premiere, only three have had a second shot. Fortune, first a NIDA production, was done in Hawaii in 1992, then at Griffin in 1993 and at La Boite in 1996. Wolf Lullaby premiered at Griffin in 1996, and was staged in 1998 by New York’s Atlantic Theater, and later Steppenwolf in Chicago. And in a strange anomaly, in 2013 I was asked almost simultaneously by the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Black Swan State Theatre Company to adapt The Seagull. The artistic directors came to an agreement, and I had the rare pleasure of seeing two productions of the same script within months of each other. (NB: Geordie Brookman, then AD at STSCA, had a policy of including second productions in his seasons—though ironically Seagull was not one of these.)
But three out of 22—and one of them a Chekhov! Sobering.
All the energy and time, research and thinking and sheer hard work, poured into those 19 others for one brief flare of life.
Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of ‘The Seagull’, 2014
My first response is an uncomfortable one: what does it say about my writing? Were all those other plays not good enough for a second appearance? They’d been well received, made money for the producers. And I couldn’t be that hideous a writer since those premieres frequently led to commissions. We are happy to revisit the Greats, including a handful of 20th century Australian plays; we’re willing to give new English and American work a go.
Why are revivals of recent Australian plays so rare?
There’s no doubt that we’re obsessed with ‘new’ and ‘world-firsts’. There’s cachet in being the finder of a fabulous new jewel—a bit of a maidenhead complex? But otherwise, I suspect that the ‘premiere’ focus is simply not questioned.
The first beneficiaries of revivals are audiences. How many plays I would have loved to see, but missed on their first and only outing. Why not give audiences the chance to meet, or to re-encounter, these plays that have won awards, gone through rigorous development processes, been refined and revised with a first audience?
Theatre companies benefit.
Frequently in the rehearsal process for a new play, the house is still being built, to borrow a metaphor from director Julian Meyrick. What a luxury to spend those weeks on the actors rather than the writing. While I would never advocate for second productions over new work, and it’s crucial that companies take risks with new plays, balancing a season with tried-and-tested recent works could mitigate some of that risk.
Creative artists benefit.
Hasn’t every director, actor, designer seen a production of a play they’d love to get their hands on, imagining how they’d do it differently? A play being done once doesn’t mean every ounce of possibility has been wrung from it.
And then there’s the playwright.
Lucy Bell in Griffin’s 1996 production of ‘Wolf Lullaby’
If a production leads to commissions, you may ask why it matters? As long as you’re working, what difference does it make whether a play gets a second chance?
The first and obvious answer is financial. Writing a play takes time. The current commission rate is $15,000—not enough to live on for two years. When your play gets picked up again (and again), it continues to bring home the bacon while you turn your attention to new projects—i.e. a sustainable career. This is a big consideration, but by no means the only one.
For playwrights, a revival is a completely different animal. Rehearsing a brand new work is a thrilling process, grappling with what until now has merely existed in your head. The first time round you’re ‘building the house’ under the pressure of a looming opening night, pressure increased by the knowledge that this may be its one-and-only life. But the next time around, the play has already proven itself. You come with a different attitude, curious rather than anxious. While the stakes are always high, a revival doesn’t have the same make-or-break implications.
And as for revising the play according to audience response, until by closing night it’s finally ready: it’s that refining process that allows us to become better writers.
Playwrights owe a debt of gratitude to the non-professional sector: schools, youth theatres, universities and amateur companies are a vital part of the theatre ecology. They commission and develop plays, engage us as artists-in-residence, pay us when they stage our work—and indeed many writers came up through them into professional careers. But I excluded them from my self-survey for several reasons. Amateur productions don’t provide writers with a living wage. They don’t result in critical reviews, press, or in being part of the cultural conversation that professional productions do. They don’t lend a writer the same credibility. They are extraordinarily valuable, but the outcomes are not the same.
Publication is key in the discussion of revivals, important enough that it warrants an article of its own.
But clearly, the availability of scripts goes a long way to ensuring subsequent productions—thank goodness for Australian Plays.
Apart from the fact of innumerable excellent plays being overlooked, re-telling stories matters because they tell us about ourselves. They’re plays that may have been struggling with an issue that has since resolved, or deepened. The gearshifts of change are so subtle that day-to-day we don’t notice them, but the language, attitudes and assumptions in a recent work measure these. Who were we then? How did we get here? What did it cost us, and was it worth it?
And if only it can avoid death by a thousand funding cuts, there is so much to celebrate in Australian theatre.
We’re seeing more balance and diversity on our stages than ever before. The quality of new writing is unprecedented, breathtaking in its ambition, variety, craft and passion. It’s wonderfully gratifying to see our companies creating space for new voices, gender parity, formal experimentation and an appreciation of classics both local and international.
What if we were to expand our regard to include the steps that brought us here? If directors were to think back to the new plays they first fell in love with, to recall a recent one they gnashed their teeth over losing to someone else, we could give audiences, playwrights and theatre companies the gift of taking a second look, and in the process, laying down the bones for future classics.
Lucy Bell and Simon Gleeson in rehearsal for Griffin’s production of ‘Splinter’
Splinter plays at Griffin from 6 September — 12 October followed by a season at HotHouse Theatre, Wodonga from 15 – 19 October.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

We Love Australianplays.org




Distressed about the pending loss of recurrent funding to the invaluable and indispensable organisation Australian Plays - horribly on the heels of the demise of Playwriting Australia - we at 7ON shared our experiences of how Australian Plays has kept us visible and part of a wider community, and created pathways to productions of our plays - productions that otherwise just would not have happened. We’d like to share our experiences with you …

CATH

What I've loved about Australian Plays is the sense of being a part of the larger cultural history of Australia. But from a personal perspective I've never been published except for one 7 minute monologue Sins by Currency and our monologues through Federation Press. So my work will simply disappear as Australian Plays has kept my work going. I have had numerous productions by schools, universities and amateur theatre companies. It's deeply depressing.

VERITY

But Cath, your plays WILL survive as long as the Australian Plays database does (or is allowed to). It’s an example of the importance of Australian Plays that the work of a fine, prize-winning playwright like you is archived by a body like Australian Plays.

NED

My relationship with Australian Plays goes all the way back to when they were in Salamanca Place and I think were called the Salamanca Script Centre. Apart from keeping my plays alive, Australian Plays has played a crucial role in my writing life. I have written a lot of plays for young people. Amongst them a collection called Shakespeare for Australian Schools published exclusively by Australian Plays.

Their online presence has meant these plays have been accessible to teachers, directors and young people for study and performance. This has been of particular importance to Drama and English students who have used my plays for HSC/VCE Drama performances as well as research essays in English.

In the last year alone my adaptation of Women of Troy has been performed by students at NIDA, Love’s Magic has been performed by three schools, Alice Dreaming by one, Us or Them by one and The Bridge is Down by one. None of these young people would have had access to these plays without Australian Plays.

My play, Hamlet Intensive, was used widely by teachers and students studying Hamlet for HSC and VCE English. Teachers are desperate for teaching resources and Australian Plays has provided relatively inexpensive and easily accessible resources for them. I like to think of them as an online library. Published plays are rare as hen's teeth in bookshops. They are the tap on a keyboard away for hundreds and thousands of students and teachers.

VERITY

In terms of what Australian Plays has given me, there’ve been some sales and feedback, but mostly the sense that a lot of my work is at least curated somewhere public, and won’t vanish when I die. Maybe the biggest impact, however, has been being able to read and familiarise myself with the great range of the work of my peers. We are an impressive cohort. It’s so easy to forget that amidst the commercial noise.

NOËLLE

I second all that you say, Vee. My royalty payments arewell, let's say we're talking pizzas and a couple of bottles of wine. The benefit is in having plays in circulation, and that's really important. It means being part of the national arts conversation. Also important. Plus the possibility of further productions, mostly uni and schools ones in my case. Although from some of those I've received (slightly) larger royalty payments. For me I'd say the most important function is probably archival. Instead of vanishing with barely a trace, unpublished plays are there and accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, with an internet connection.

HILARY

Being part of the Australian Plays catalogue means that my plays, otherwise so ephemeral, continue to exist in tangible, readable, produceable form. The digital format means that I can continue to update them, that they never go out of print, that they’re available beyond all geographical boundaries and at minimum cost. Most importantly, Australian Plays is unconstrained by commercial imperatives, meaning they can publish the unconventional and the unique. It is a place where we playwrights can feel ourselves to be part of a community, part of a living archive, not only with our work available to all, but also where the writing of others, some who were instrumental in shaping our culture, some no longer with us, lives on.

VANESSA

Agree all. Access and archival. Also State of Play articles, a provocation for playwrights to respond to or simply think about what’s being discussed. Writing is often a very solitary business. Especially if you are not commissioned or writing for a company. Australian Plays connected Australian playwrights so here another connection between playwrights is lost. My play Porn.Cake also earned me a few pizzas and a bottle or two of wine. But it was out there and it was read.

DONNA

Australian Plays has been invaluable. It can be a long time between commissioning and production drinks, but during those times, my body of work is nevertheless easily available and publicly validated. I would not have had any international productions of my work without Australian Plays. My play Tales from the Arabian Nights (2004 Theatre of Image) went on to have over 20 productions here and overseas, and this year was published by Currency because, with its refugee frame, the play is more relevant now than when I wrote it. Australian Plays is there, working, serving, archiving, licensing - it just has to exist.


-->

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Australian Plays


-->
Paul Fletcher, Federal Arts Minister
Adrian Collette, CEO Australia Council for the Arts

We write to express our profound shock and dismay at the recent news concerning Australian Plays, and the rejection of its EOI for operational funding. 

The implosion of PlayWriting Australia has been devastating enough – but to learn that we are now to lose the only other organisation in the country dedicated to the support of playwrights is a crippling blow. 

Australian Plays is completely unique in terms of the services it provides. It promotes the work of local playwrights, both nationally and globally, by making scripts accessible digitally. It licenses plays. It is a living archive – an essential thing in an art form that is by nature ephemeral. It makes our writing accessible to actors and directors, teachers and students, professional and amateur companies, schools and universities. It means the work of Australian playwrights gets read, produced, remounted, studied. By cutting off all support for the promotion and publication of new work, playwrights – and thus Australian theatre – simply cannot survive.

7-ON is a company of established playwrights, working both individually and collaboratively. Each of us has been part of the Australian theatre landscape for over thirty years. Carving out a career as a playwright is a tough gig, and somehow we have all managed to sustain ourselves over the years – thanks in no small part to the efforts of Australian Plays. But never before have we felt such despair for the future of our art-form and our industry.

The Australia Council and the federal government need to understand that both the playwriting community and the small-to-medium sector are in major crisis through no fault of their own, and that high-level interventions are urgently needed before cultural expertise and corporate knowledge, not to mention jobs, are lost to this generation of theatre-makers. 

7-ON
Vanessa Bates, Donna Abela, Hilary Bell*, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning, Noëlle Janaczewska, Catherine Zimdahl.

*Hilary Bell is on the board of Australian Plays.

We encourage people to write to the Federal Arts Minister and the CEO of the Australia Council to express your concerns.


Friday, 19 July 2019

What we did January—June 2019

7-ON
Climate change, widening inequality, the residue of colonialism, questions of democracy, citizenship and human rights. Events here in Australia and on the world stage prompted us to return to 7 Social Sins (working title). We had a session with dramaturg Louise Gough which threw up a wealth of possibilities. We’ve been thinking about those and discussing where we go from here. And we’ve come up with the usual problem we encounter with our collective (and sometimes also our individual) projects: the lack of a producer and/or producing company. One option we are currently considering is paring the work back to its absolute simplest form. Stay tuned.

Female artist & big fish. Photo from the Australian Museum archives, circa 1925

DONNA
I started mentoring Aanisa Vylet who premiered the first iteration of her show Savauge during the Batch Festival at Griffin in March. I was able to help leverage Aanisa’s creative process by contextualising her work for her within feminist theatre practice, a history and rich resource too often not taught or tapped into. I’ve also started working with the Q Theatre and Arts Out West to support four regional writers who will have plays workshopped and read later in the year.

On the publication front, Australian Plays published an essay I co-authored with Emma Mary Hall and Grace Pundyk called Keep going sister, I will translate for you: Reflections on the 2018 Women's Playwriting International Conference in Santiago, Chile and Currency Press published my adaptation Tales From the Arabian Nights. I wrote Arabian Nights during the Tampa crisis which saw Australia’s asylum seeker policies lurch towards a mean-heartedness beyond our then imagination. The play has a framing story about asylum seeking and, given the global escalation of the refugee crisis, is unexpectedly more relevant than ever.

I ran writing workshops for ATYP and PYT Fairfield, taught scriptwriting at the University of Wollongong and Excelsia College, spent days and days on applications and acquittals, and joined the team working to transform the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct into a Site of Conscience. Meanwhile, I keep believing in the two plays on my desk.


NOËLLE
The first part of 2019 I spent completing a poetry manuscript that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s called Scratchland and it’s composed of two parts: Scenarios & solos from a mixed landscape and True crimers. (Yes, it does tilt at the crime genre.) Scratchland is being published and will be out the beginning of 2020. Very exiting.

In February The Devil Girls From Mars had a reading as part of PLAYLIST, a partnership between the Seymour Centre, the Sydney Mardi Gras and Siren Theatre Company. The script was hot off the computer, very much a first draft, and somewhat underwritten. (Some people’s first drafts are overwritten, mine are invariably under.) Anyway. It’s always useful to hear a new work read by actors before an audience, and it was great to collaborate again with director Kate Gaul, albeit briefly. I have a sheaf of notes for the next draft and plan to return very soon to The Devil Girls From Mars.

I completed an audio script, Experiment Street, in June. A commission for ABC Radio National’s The History Listen, it’s a nonfiction feature about Experiment Street, which is, yes, a real street in Pyrmont (an inner city Sydney suburb). It’s a small, unremarkable back lane, but its name has long intrigued me … so I set off to discover its history and explore the tensions between public narration and private truths.

What else? Seoul City Sue was short-listed for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting). And in May I was part of the 2019 NT Writers’ Festival in Alice Springs. It was a wonderfully diverse, wonderfully inclusive, enjoyable and thought-provoking few days. It was my first visit to central Australia—I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last.


VERITY
I think there are now many playwrights/writers who have undertaken Creative Arts PhDs. So, if I say that for the last six months, what I’ve been doing has been bringing my doctorate to a conclusion, you/they will understand that I haven’t had much time to do anything else.

I’m not quite done yet. But can I say to others out there who are contemplating the same activity, do go for it. For me, it has been a glorious adventure, with capable, kind, consummately intelligent guides. Yes, hard work. But also the chance to take nigh on three years to research the theory, practice and subject material around writing a particular play in a particular way.

The whole process has reminded me that we so need time for the deep endeavours that have nothing to do with the politics of our art or making a buck. It’s been a privilege.


HILARY
It’s been six months of hurry-up-and-wait.

While much of the writing life is under your control—you decide to sit down this many hours, this many days a week, and ignore or embrace this many distractions—there’s a big part that isn’t. And that consists, largely, of waiting. Waiting to hear if a project’s been funded, or if a theatre company is interested. Waiting for feedback from a director who’s busy working on something else. Waiting for your composer’s schedule to clear. All that waiting would seem like a good time to start something new, but with the possibility that any moment you’ll have to drop it and re-focus, that can be tricky.

So, in between waiting, I’ve spent the past six months shepherding along various projects. Take Two: A Comedy of Errors (formerly Ha Ha Woops, a title gifted by Vanessa that I love, but Marketing didn’t) goes into rehearsals next month at National Theatre of Parramatta. A January workshop with director Stefo Nantsou, designer Imogen Ross, and a band of fearless actors finished with a showing for kids who’d never seen a play before. They didn’t know what hit them as they sat on the rehearsal room floor, five adults singing and dancing in dress-ups just feet away from them.

For Bell Shakespeare, director Sarah Giles and I had a day with actors on Vicious Cupid, my adaptation of Susannah Centlivre’s 1705 comedy, The Basset Table.

My third picture book with illustrator Antonia Pesenti, 'Summer Time', is about to head to Singapore for printing, and will be in bookshops in October.

After a year of intermittently writing the audio-script for Dead Central, the exhibition about the Devonshire St Cemetery opened at the State Library of NSW, and runs till November (free entry!).

And NTOP’s 2017 production of The Red Tree is currently showing at the Sydney Opera House, and tours to the Arts Centre Melbourne at the end of July. It was a fast and furious week of rehearsal pulling it all back together, but it’s better than ever, and a joy to see it on the Playhouse stage.

I also contributed dramaturgy to Julia Leigh's powerful play Avalanche: A Love Story, featuring Maxine Peake and directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, coming from the Barbican to the STC in September.

Otherwise—lots of teaching, which I love: for Live Words in Bathurst, Dubbo Youth Theatre, Writing NSW, and the Inner West Council.

And then there are the things I can’t talk about yet, while I wait to hear if the funding comes through …


CATH
The last 6 months have been devoted to writing a new play and I’ve arrived now at Third Draft. Most of the writing has been with ease but this last draft was the dreaded one. There is always a dreaded draft, the one that has to find a way to solve problems without the internal reverie of the play being upended by logic.

It was also hard to write as Playwriting Australia, the organisation which supported this script, collapsed. This play was supported through the Duologue Program, an initiative dedicated to the often unheralded creative collaborative process that gives birth to a play.

PWA described the opportunity as ‘funding the hours of discussion, draft reading, feedback and dialogue in the nascent stages of the creation of a new work. The program supports a year long creative partnership between a playwright and artistic collaborator of their choosing (dramaturg or fellow playwright).’

I was blessed to have the considerable dramaturgical eye of Alison Lyssa to work with. The play is now close to being finished and going off out into the world.

Sadly, it is unknown whether playwrights will have the same opportunity to develop their plays with a colleague of their choosing through the Duologue Program in the future.


NED
At a time when I’ve been focussing on writing a book and full-time teaching it’s been heartening to discover that quite a few of my plays for young people are still doing the rounds. In no particular order, Alice Dreaming, Love’s Magic and my adaptation of Women of Troy have all had productions during the first half of the year. Alice has been performed by three schools, Love’s Magic by two and Women of Troy one. One school even inquired about the rights to that old chestnut, Us or Them.

Not only that, but John Senczuk in his comprehensive history of Griffin Theatre Company, has rightly credited Us or Them as being the first play where Griffin paid the cast and crew, and the breakthrough play in transforming Griffin from an amateur to a professional company. For the record, the original production of Us or Them (starring the late, great Penny Cook) was meant to play for 4 weeks but went on to play for 18. As Nick Enright told me at the time it was a “hit”, although I didn’t know it. Being a novice playwright who began writing plays in between acting jobs, I had no idea what a “hit” was. I discovered it was when a play kept on running and running.

Beyond John’s history, there has been no recognition of the role Us or Them played in our theatre history or (I can say it now) its astonishing success. Of course, we playwrights don’t write plays to be recognised. We write them to say something about the world we live in. That’s why I am always thrilled to have schools produce my work.

From the feedback I get from teachers (and sometimes parents) it seems that young people love doing my plays. That’s great because I love them doing them.


VANESSA
Oh hey. The marvellous life of the playwright continues with me wondering if I should get my boots reheeled again and collecting coupons from the supermarket to buy sports equipment for the child’s school.

This playwriting year has sort of gone like this for me ... yay! Tops! Brillo! Yeah really? OK. Not so cool. Blah. Blah. What the? Yeah OK. But alright. Actually, no. Get fucked. But hey! Indoor voice. Happy face. LOL. Meh.

OK so amidst all that ... my play A Ghost In My Suitcase went on at the Sydney Opera House and then in Perth at the Heath Ledger Theatre and this experience was up there with being told the IVF had worked. And there was something about creeping around backstage, hanging out with actors in the dressing room and then seeing the play over and over that reminded me why I love writing for theatre. Also that I love writing for women actors and also writing for brown women actors and if I can dig up that photo of me in the foyer of the Victorian Arts Centre, with the most incredible bunch of clever women I will. In extra jolly news, A Ghost In My Suitcase is being published by Currency Press and I HAVE SEEN THE COVER and it is AWEsome!

I have been commissioned! I KNOW! Cool! It is a play which I am currently calling The One it is a comedy and it is all thanks to Ensemble Theatre in Sydney which might have to be the most gorgeous theatre around. Now that the STC Wharf is closed for renos, maybe this is the only theatre left on the water currently. Is it? Dunno. But I have the big Playwright love for it. Now I just have to write the thing. Obvs I will say no more until it has eventuated but to be commissioned in this arts-shrinking climate is an awesome feat in itself.

Other plays ... Captain Dalisay, a big beautiful Eurasian kids play, needs a home stat before it joins my drawer of well written but sadly unperformed plays. Oh and a tiny little play I love, Awkward Dancing had its first showing at RADA in London. Hooplah!

Various day job type jobettes are continuing, especially the writing of the fabulous Play School. Special shout out to Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty who were sitting backs to the glass wall, minding their own business, when the AFP raided the ABC. Yes, there is a bear in there! It brought a little smile to my face when I saw them. Which was good because there was precious little else to smile about.

Gee I feel like there’s more, and it’s just gone ... hmm, what could it be? Writing an hilarious 6-part comedy drama TV series? Applying to do a PhD? Our country’s peak playwriting organisation folding unexpectedly and with more than a little drama? My son becoming a teenager ...? oh man, life hey? You couldn’t write about it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

PlayWriting Australia Board replies to 7-ON letter


2 July 2019
Dear Donna, Vanessa, Hilary, Noelle, Verity, Ned and Catherine,
Thanks for your letter, which we were very pleased to receive. We’d like to take up your invitation to make a few things clearer.

We took the decision to open up space for a new way of supporting the Australian playwriting culture not because we thought it was ‘mission accomplished’, but because complex operational challenges faced by PWA had become insurmountable. We mentioned issues of sustainability in our announcement, and they are real. We reached this conclusion after a great deal of thorough investigation and soul searching.

It remains true that over the last two or three years there have been very significant, positive shifts in Australian playwriting. Indisputably, there is a wider diversity and companies are generally better at play development than they have been. This gave rise to the idea that maybe there was different and better way to respond to this improved landscape.

We can’t see that it will ever be ‘mission accomplished’ – that’s an unhelpful phrase but we can see that it’s imperative to respond responsibly to what’s before us, both internally and externally.

We are glad that you agree that a wide-ranging review of play development in Australia is needed. This will happen, and in a methodical and open way. We trust that it will tell us all what needs to best be done.

It’s not true to say that we will be without a national play development organisation for the first time since 1972. That role will continue to be played albeit through a different way of delivery, probably with the operational support of Griffin (but not drawing on their resources) up until after the findings of the national review, at which time a new, and we trust better, shape will be implemented. We expect to be able to announce details of the review within a week.

In fact, we have worked very hard to ensure that government and other funders will continue to be supportive, so that a play development agency will continue to exist in Australia, even in a new form.

There is no need for you to insist that playwrights are central to the review process. It’s entirely up to you to what extent you wish to participate in the review. We really do hope that you do so fully and constructively. As you say, you should be central in the process of developing what happens next.

We have been heartened by many messages of support, and only ask that everyone is respectful of all parties and careful not to spread misinformation. Our focus is firmly on the future, and we believe that, together, we will find the best future if all are similarly focused. 
Yours sincerely,
The PWA Board

Monday, 1 July 2019

7-ON responds to announcement that PWA is closing its doors

Dear PlayWriting Australia Board,

We were shocked by the PWA announcement last week that the board has decided that it is time to “pass the microphone and leave space for something different”. Your news that staff have been made redundant, and that playwrights are about to be without their only peak body, came without warning, and at a time when we thought that PWA was on the brink of a new phase of a deeper engagement with writers and the industry. This news is monumental. The fact that PWA can keep its current programs ticking over is cold comfort in the face of this inexplicable and sudden loss.

We realise PWA does not have a membership to answer to, but it exists to serve Australian playwrights - does it not? This lack of transparency with the playwriting community is troubling, if not paternalistic, and comes on the back of the unexplained departure of PWA’s previous Artistic Director. We feel frustrated to have been kept in the dark, and shut out of a drastic decision which has a direct impact upon us.

We do not accept the Board's assessment that it is ‘mission accomplished’ for PWA. If this was the case, why did PWA appoint a new AD/CEO within the last year, advertise its Artistic Associate position only months ago, and announce a new batch of programmes?

We were thrilled when PWA appointed the first playwright to ever head up the organisation. With his extensive knowledge of play development both here and overseas, playwrights felt confident that Lachlan Philpott would lead a renewal process - indeed, his initiatives and consultative Playwrights’ Forums suggested he was doing exactly that. We agree that a wide-ranging review of play development in Australia is needed, but was this not what Lachlan Philpott was trying to do?

As far as we know, neither playwrights nor the theatre sector called for PWA to fold. We therefore find it difficult to accept the Board’s reasons for dissolving the only organisation for Australian playwrights. The decision leaves us without a national play development organisation for the first time since 1972. It leaves the bulk of playwrights - notably rural, regional, emerging, mid career, unrepresented, everyone not working for a “major” - without any avenue of advocacy or support.

We are asking the Board to directly address PWA’s playwright constituency to explain your decision. We insist that playwrights are central to the review process, and not marginal to the process of developing what comes next.

Yours sincerely,
7-ON
Donna Abela, Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Noëlle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning, Catherine Zimdahl

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Playwriting Australia is passing the microphone to ... who? what?

Playwriting Australia has announced that it has made its remaining staff redundant, and has put its reserves into trust so that a review can be conducted and something else can rise from these ashes. "Playwriting Australia is pleased to ... pass the microphone and leave space for something different". You can read their announcement on their website here.

We are reeling. "Redundant" Artistic Director and CEO Lachlan Philpott assumed that position less than a year ago. Lachlan has extensive experience of national and international play development, and was the first playwright ever to lead a national Australian play development organisation. We were thrilled. We were excited by his writer-centred vision. We send him all our love and support.

We are also raising questions.