Friday, 14 May 2021
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Heartbroken though we were to see the defunding and consequent end of Australia’s two playwriting organisations, PLAYWRITING AUSTRALIA and AUSTRALIAN PLAYS, we welcome the arrival of brand spanking new AUSTRALIAN PLAYS TRANSFORM (APT).
Headed by Louise Gough, chaired by Rob Brookman, and with an experienced board and excellent group of practitioners as its national advisory committee, we are hopeful of good things.
Tuesday, 4 May 2021
7-ON is so excited to issue an invitation to all and sundry to bring their sharpest self along and dart – for a while! – into Gleebooks – 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW 2037 on
Friday 4th June at 6. 00!
We have a book launch going on!
And we have the sharpest of all theatre darts, Louise Gough, dramaturg extraordinaire and newly appointed inaugural CEO/Executive Director of Australian Plays Transform to do the honours (plus a little business of our own...).
Here's our Press Release:
SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON
Published by Currency Press, 19th May 2021
To be launched by Louise Gough at Gleebooks, 49, Glebe Point Road, Glebe on June 4, 6 pm.
"Collaborating with 7ON is like mixing a cake full of all sorts of exotic ingredients that somehow make wonderful eating when baked." Ned Manning
Sharp Darts: Chamber Plays by 7-ON (Currency Press) is the latest collaboration of 7-ON playwrights’ group. 7-ON has been together for 16 years as a small group of seven (very different!) established playwrights, no formal leader, no core intention beyond supporting each other in the making of new theatre in 21st century Australia. 7-ON’s third book collaboration is a collection of 15 short plays reflecting our very different voices, but all of them love-notes to the theatre. They exploit the limitations of the short play form to its best advantage, honing language, action and visual imagery to their sharpest point. Written for professional production, they also hold plenty of appeal for drama students, amateur companies, reading groups, auditioning actors – anyone who wants to experience myriad worlds between two covers. Sharp Darts is a snapshot of new writing for theatre right now.
7-ON is: Donna Abela, Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Noëlle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning, and Catherine Zimdahl.
RSVP to Gleebooks: https://www.gleebooks.com.au/events/
Friday, 9 April 2021
When we have a time and place for the launch, we’ll post it here, as well as emailing all our thousand dearest friends and relations, and bothering as many journalists as we can. Given that five of the Seven, as well as Currency Press, are based in Sydney, the event will be somewhere in inner Sydney. Ms Bates will be down from Newcastle. Dr Laughton may or may not come over from Adelaide. She is still counting her time and money. Dr Janaczewska, Dr Abela, Ms Bell, Mr Manning and Ms Zimdahl will all be present and possibly correct, depending on their mood on the day. They reserve the right not to be! We might bring our children. We might bring our dogs. You can meet them all whilst you share a glass of wine and an aperitif (or two).
Hilary has written such a good account of the evolution of our latest baby (I know, mixed metaphor) that I won’t repeat it here (It’s Verity writing this, BTW).
We’ve been in this game for a while now. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we’re loving the agency and understanding and craft that comes with having been around the block a few times. But just for a touch of nostalgia I’m going to quote from Vanessa’s beautiful piece, The Night We Lost Jenny, which is one of her offerings in Sharp Darts, where the nameless WOMAN says:
“… In that time.
In that place.
In that moment.
We were young.
The sexy opening group shot of St Elmo’s Fire, bright faces and eternal friendships,
layers and legwarmers,
fishnets and floppy fringes,
striding towards our
You want to read the rest of it? Come to the launch. Buy a copy of the book!
Thursday, 25 March 2021
Publish and be damned!
SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON
Published by Currency Press, 2021
Saturday, 16 January 2021
7-ON has a new publication in the pipeline: Sharp Darts: Chamber Plays by 7-ON. It’s a collection of fifteen short scripts reflecting our very different voices, but all of them love-notes to the theatre. Written for professional production, they also hold plenty of appeal for drama students, auditioning actors, community companies, reading groups—anyone who wants to experience myriad worlds between two covers.
Coming soon to an online or bricks and mortar bookshop near you.
Looking back through my 2020 diary, it’s a sea of crossings-out: performances that got cancelled, writers’ festivals that didn’t happen, rehearsal periods that never began. Yet as the year wore on (and ‘wore’ feels like the appropriate word), things picked up and I was busier than ever: mostly at the development end, but also with other human beings in theatres, no matter that we were masked and slathered in sanitiser.
The first of these was a week of dramaturgy for National Theatre of Parramatta, working with director Dino Dimitriadis on Monikka Eliah’s Nana and Berta. What a thrill to be off Zoom, and in a room! Later in the year, I had the pleasure of dramaturging Chris Bendall’s Black Sun, Blood Moon.
Next came a workshop of my new play Deviants, directed by Damian Ryan and commissioned by producer Michael Dengler. Our hope is to bring it to life this year or next. I’ve written about it in an earlier post, as I have about the musical Alphabetical Sydney: All Aboard! A collaboration with composer Greta Gertler Gold and designer Antonia Pesenti, Critical Stages will produce. We presented it to the world via Zoom, with songs sung by Justine Clarke and Luke Escombe, and are now charting its course toward production.
With composer Luke Styles, I’ve been writing songs for our Annette Kellerman Project. We received a grant from the Inner West Council to further develop it, with a free public performance slated for the coming winter.
In October, Ben Winspear directed the premier production of Perfect Stranger at the University of Tasmania. I couldn’t travel to see it, alas, but it was exciting to hear how the company made a virtue of the many constraints and created a beautiful site-specific work.
I’ve dipped a few toes into the world of film this past year. I spent much of the time working on a treatment—more to come as things unfold. I was engaged by the Sydney Opera House to write House Play, eight short episodes designed to inspire children to make theatre at home—write, direct, act, design, compose, light and produce. This was filmed in December, and should be online soon. And my play Splinter was optioned by Playground Films.
A Christmas Carol, for the Ensemble Theatre, had its season cancelled. But there’ll be another Christmas and, with luck, another Carol this year. Let’s hope we’re in a better place by then.
So the first thing and the biggest thing is that I have been doing a PhD in scriptwriting. This second half of the year I was ‘confirmed’ which makes me a proper PhD student.
Actually ... I have been ‘confirmed’ before, not in an academic way, once a catholic etc etc, which means (among other things) one must choose a saint for one’s very own. More than that, one’s saint name can then be attached to one’s own as an extra middle name. Does this still happen? No idea. Having done my First Communion years earlier, in Penang, Malaysia, I was confirmed when we were living in regional NSW, along with my younger sisters (mum assumed we could be a job lot) and so, as one might do with one’s younger sisters, I found myself arguing over saints. Cut to the three of us dressed in best clothes, still arguing as we waited in line to meet the bishop. This is what happens in this kind of confirmation, one meets the bishop and one is introduced via one’s special saint name.
Except, I didn’t have a special saint name.
I was confident however and when the elderly priest asked me surreptitiously for my saint’s name so I could be introduced, I said … I don’t have one, I’ll just be Vanessa.
The priest goggled at me, what about Mary, he suggested. No, I said, that’s my sister’s saint name. Fine, he muttered, Elizabeth? That’s my other sister’s saint name, I said. You can’t have Vanessa, he muttered as I came face to face with the Bishop. But, I stared hard at the priest, you said we could take our own name, I distinctly remember. Anne? The priest tried once more. No, I hissed back, Anne’s already my middle name. I would be Vanessa Anne Anne and that would sound stupid. Flustered, the priest gave in and thus, I was so confirmed and now I am indeed my own saint.
Anyhoo, my point is, I have been doing the other confirmation and researching scriptwriting and creativity and being brown. And I love this! I am doing a Practice Based Enquiry, so as part of my thesis I am also writing a television series about a half Filipino, half English girl growing up in Penang and regional NSW. It’s called HalfJar and it’s, well, funny and warm and sad. And I love this too!
In playwriting during Covid times, I am still writing The One with The Ensemble theatre (development in a couple of months!), and smaller pieces, some in response to pandemic life, like Mrs Shakespeare draws A Line for atyp and further pieces, for a group of playwrights who met regularly online in 2020 (Every Monday).
Oh and once again I was a playwriting mentor for atyp’s National Studio with the utterly fabulous Mary Anne Butler, Chris Isaacs and Jane FitzGerald. But this time, it was all on Zoom eeek! the lecture, the playwriting group writing sessions, the one-on-ones and the actual readings of the works written by an extremely clever cohort of emerging playwrights.
I have started work on a new play, Valentine’s Day, and two narrative comedy television shows Troubled Youth and LoveLife with co-writer Ross Mueller.
And finally, I have moved house and that as everyone knows could try the patience of a saint.
It’s been a long six months. It’s been a long 2020. Although it did end on a high note when Trump was voted out.
On the writing front, after a fallow beginning, the year gathered momentum. I wrote a new monologue-cum-performance essay, The End of Winter. With Siren Theatre Company and support from Critical Stages we had a workshop and four work-in-progress excerpts were filmed for Critical Stages Screening Room #ActOnClimate. You can see ours here. I’ve written a new draft since we recorded those excerpts, but they give you an idea of the piece. It was such a joy to work with real people in real, physical spaces. With key collaborators, Kate Gaul (director), Jane Phegan (actor) and Nate Edmundson (sound designer/composer), the fantastic team who brought Good With Maps to theatrical life.
Following a number of theatrical outings since its 2008 debut, Trish, my very short (5-6 minutes) monologue was produced for ABC RN Fictions and broadcast in November. Download it here. Staying with audio, Experiment Street, which I researched, wrote and co-produced for ABC RN’s The History Listen, won the 2020 NSW Premier’s History Awards Digital History Prize. You can listen to or download Experiment Street here.
I have an essay in the just released anthology from Brow Books, Dizzy Limits: Recent Experiments in Australian Nonfiction. My contribution, Lemon Pieces (Quelques Morceaux en Forme de Citron), was first published in 1998. It was an interesting experience looking at something I wrote over twenty years ago. I had to resist the temptation to rewrite it completely, and instead approach the revising process with a light touch, as if I were editing the work of someone else—which is what it felt like.
For Canberra’s That Poetry Thing I did a reading from my collection Scratchland (UWA Publishing Poetry Series)—yes, on Zoom.
Finally, I was about to start work on a new project when out of the blue I got a gig writing a narration script for a short audio visual work which will go on overseas later this year. I can’t tell you any more because I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement. First time I’ve ever had to do that. First time for everything.
Sunday, 20 September 2020
Never before has the opportunity to work in a room with actors, a director and a producer felt like such a rare gift. Not by phone, not on Zoom, but in a rehearsal room. I feel incredibly lucky to have had these two projects keeping me focused, happy and creatively afloat over the past six months – and even more so to now be taking them forward a step.
Tomorrow is the first day of the workshop for a new play, Deviants. Commissioned by Michael Dengler of Exit Game Productions, it’s an adaptation of Paula Paul’s novel ‘The Mind of a Deviant Woman’. If you’ve never heard of the US Supreme Court’s 1927 Buck Vs Bell decision, look it up. A near-forgotten fragment of history, and the centrepiece of America’s adventures in eugenics, it ruled that those judged ‘unfit’ could be forcibly sterilised. The criteria for ‘fitness’ of course were wildly biased, according to race, class, disability, and the prevailing morality of the day. 60,000 Americans were sterilised without their consent (or often, their knowledge); the Nazis cited the decision in their defence at Nuremberg. It is yet to be overturned.
The workshop will be directed by Damien Ryan, with a stellar cast including Lucy Bell, Andrea Demetriades, Stacey Duckworth, Rob Jago, Johnny Nasser and Ed Wightman.
The following week, I leave the misery of compulsory sterilisation for the joy of a children’s musical. Alphabetical Sydney: All Aboard! is an extension (rather than adaptation) of Antonia Pesenti’s and my picture book ‘Alphabetical Sydney’. We’re collaborating with composer Greta Gertler Gold on this unique combination of music theatre and creative play, in which the audience plays a crucial part.
With the support of Critical Stages and a grant from the City of Sydney, we were supposed to present a showing this past winter. But COVID had other plans, so we’re now going digital. However, that still involves the immense pleasure of first recording the songs, and to perform them we’ll be in a real theatre, on an actual stage, with living performers Justine Clarke and Luke Escombe. Watch this space for snippets, clips and eventually production details.