The Patrick White Playwrights’ Award and Fellowship are annual initiatives of Sydney Theatre Company that foster the development of Australian playwrights. The Award offers a cash prize for a full-length unproduced play written by an Australian playwright over 18 years of age. The Fellowship is a position for an established Australian playwright, who receives $12,500 for a year-long Fellowship and a commission, also worth $12,500, to write a new play.
STC’s Emerging Writers’ Group is a new initiative that aims to encourage the next generation of Australian playwrights.
PATRICK WHITE PLAYWRIGHTS’ FELLOWSHIP
Tonight at STC's Wharf 2 Theatre, Andrew Bovell was announced as our new Patrick White Fellow. One of Australia's foremost playwrights, Andrew's work is well known to STC audiences, with his acclaimed adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River premiering in 2013 before touring throughout Australia. In 2015, STC staged a hilarious revival of his 1980s play After Dinner Wharf, and Brink’s production of When the Rain Stops Falling was presented by STC in 2009.
In receiving the award, Andrew said:
"The playwright is unique among the company of writers. Where the novelist and poet and short story writer can exist alone and in isolation, the playwright seeks to work in collaboration with other theatre artists; actors, directors, designers and composers. Great theatre comes out of the relationship between these disciplines and it’s our theatre companies that can bring them together under the same roof.
As a playwright, I want a relationship with the people and companies that produce my work. I don’t want to be a visitor. I want to belong. I want to collaborate. I want to make theatre with other people who share a passion for it.
The Patrick White Fellowship offers me the opportunity to be a part of Sydney Theatre Company’s creative team under Kip’s artistic directorship. It is an opportunity to build on the strong and successful collaboration that created The Secret River. In that play, the STC demanded the best I could give as a writer and then backed the vision that we created with the resources to realise it. I’m looking forward to beginning a new work for the company of equal ambition and significance.
As part of the Fellowship, I also look forward to mentoring and working with the STC’s newly announced Emerging Writers Group. It’s an important initiative and one that acknowledges the company’s commitment to developing the writers of the next generation. As a younger writer, I benefited from the mentorship of such writers as John Romeril and Patricia Cornelius and I welcome, now, the opportunity to share my own experience and craft with Emme, Disapol, Julian and Moreblessing.
As one generation of playwrights begins their careers, another comes to an end. I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the death of a valued colleague, the playwright Michael Gurr. He died a few weeks ago. He was 55. Too young. Michael was the playwright many of us aspired to be, intelligent, political, urbane, savage in his critique of political folly and yet idealistic in what he believed power in the right hands could achieve.
Michael was the writer-in-residence at the Melbourne Theatre Company at 20 years of age. He is the youngest writer to have ever taken up that position. He achieved this by writing to Ray Lawler and asking for his advice. And Ray, to his credit recognized a talent that deserved nurturing and invited Michael to join the company.
I tell this story as a reminder, I guess that good playwrights, important playwrights like Ray Lawler and Michael Gurr have always sought to belong to theatre companies. That’s what this Fellowship allows me to do. To belong.
I’d like to thank Sydney Theatre Company for this recognition and support and to acknowledge the lasting importance of Patrick White’s work. White revealed Australia to itself in a way it had never been seen before. He and, I think, Dorothy Hewett in equal measure captured something deeply truthful about this country.
It seems to me that this is central to the task of a playwright."
The previous STC Patrick White Fellows are Raimondo Cortese, Patricia Cornelius, Hilary Bell, Angela Betzien, Kate Mulvany and Tommy Murphy.
PATRICK WHITE PLAYWRIGHTS’ AWARD
This year, 106 original, unproduced play scripts were submitted anonymously for this $7500 prize. It was Lewis Treston’s play Hot Tub which most impressed the judges. Treston’s eccentric comedy, set on the Gold Coast, follows the fading fortunes of a dysfunctional family who own and live in a 20-storey high-rise. When their estranged daughter comes to live with the family she finds herself drawn into a chaotic world of money-making scams and enterprises. She finds herself embroiled in the sex industry, organised crime and the opportunistic underbelly of Australia’s playground.
Hot Tub received a rehearsed reading at Wharf 2 directed by STC’s Richard Wherrett Fellow Jessica Arthur, with the cast of Tony Cogin, Jennifer Hagan, Mark Hill, Patrick Jhanur, Amber McMahon, Susan Prior and Contessa Treffone.
EMERGING WRITERS' GROUP
STC's new Emerging Writers’ Group supports the next generation of Australian playwrights through professional development – expanding their skill sets and helping them discover and hone their own distinctive voices. The inaugural group of writers are Emme Hoy, Julian Larnach, Moreblessing Maturure and Disapol Savetsila, who will meet regularly throughout the year-long program and be mentored by STC’s Artistic Director, Literary Manager, Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellow and resident directors. They will attend STC productions, company runs and take part in workshops with STC artists, as well as have opportunities to discuss work they see and their own artistic practice. Each participant will also have the opportunity to develop a commission pitch for STC programming consideration.