Angus Cerini is the new STC Patrick White Playwrights Fellow

Angus Cerini has been appointed Sydney Theatre Company’s new Patrick White Playwrights Fellow, just six months after his gothic two-hander Wonnangatta starring Hugo Weaving and Wayne Blair marked the Company’s return to the stage following last year’s industry shutdown.

The recipient of this year’s Patrick White Playwrights Award is Ra Chapman for her play K-BOX, which was last night presented as a rehearsed reading to a buzzing crowd in the Richard Wherrett Studio at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

STC has also announced a new cohort of Emerging Writers, with four talented up-and-coming playwrights – Monikka Eliah, Michael Louis Kennedy, Kirsty Marillier and Dylan Van Den Berg – appointed to the two-year program which aims to support professional development, expand skill sets and encourage the carving out of distinctive voices.

Artistic Director Kip Williams said he had “great respect and creative admiration” for Cerini – who he commissioned to write Wonnangatta – and was excited to work alongside him to produce more theatre that would challenge, inspire and delight audiences.

Angus has an indelible talent for unpacking Australian masculinity and the effects it has on both individuals and our broader society,” Williams said. “He produces poetic, riveting and masterful work and I am delighted about his appointment as STC’s new Patrick White Playwrights Fellow.

STC’s Literary Manager Polly Rowe said the last few months of considering applications for the numerous playwright opportunities on offer had been an “absolute joy.

“2020 was a devastating year for our industry so it’s exciting to see the amazing writing that incubated during theatre’s year off,” Rowe said.

At every stage of the judging process, readers agreed that Ra Chapman’s writing dazzled with wit, insight and originality. The new cohort of Emerging Writers are already very accomplished, having collectively racked up some impressive accolades. STC will provide a creative home for them for them for the next two years as they continue to develop their playwriting skills and advance their careers.

The Fellow

Cerini, well known to STC audiences for his plays The Bleeding Tree (2017) and Wonnangatta (2020), said he was “thrilled” to be the recipient of this year’s Fellowship.

“I am looking forward to spending time with the high quality humans at STC in the single minded pursuit of high quality theatre,” Cerini said.

Now in its 11th year, the $25,000 Fellowship is awarded annually to an established playwright in recognition of their excellent body of work and achievements. As well as including a commission from STC, which each Fellow develops during their year-long engagement, the tenure provides opportunities for the playwright to share their skills with other playwrights and artists including the STC Emerging Writers Group.

Previous STC Patrick White Fellows include Andrew Bovell, Anchuli Felicia King, Tommy Murphy, Kate Mulvany, Sue Smith, Angela Betzien, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius and Raimondo Cortese.

The Award winner

There were 148 scripts submitted anonymously for STC’s 21st Patrick White Playwrights Award, with the prize of $7,500 for an original, unproduced script going to Ra Chapman for K-BOX.

The play is a surreal comedy that follows a young woman, Lucy Thomas, who flees her collapsing life in Melbourne to stay with her adoptive baby boomer parents in country Victoria. In her old room, Lucy discovers an empty cardboard box—one she thought was full of childhood memories – is now completely empty. What happened to her stuff? Who threw it out? What was in there anyway?

K-BOX would have marked Chapman’s mainstage debut at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in 2020 but the production was cancelled due to COVID. It was performed as a rehearsed, staged reading at the announcement ceremony last night, directed by STC’s Associate Director Paige Rattray and starring Drew Forsythe, Tina Bursill and Michelle Lim Davidson and Jeffrey Liu.

“I am absolutely thrilled to accept this award and that my play K-BOX has been given this new lease of life,”Chapman said.

Over the last five years this work has been on quite the rollercoaster journey and it holds a very special place in my heart. K-BOX gives voice to the adult adoptee experience, and explores the complexity of family and belonging. It’s an honour to be the 2021 Patrick White Playwright Award recipient and to join the alumni of exceptional and progressive shortlisted and winning playwrights.

The Patrick White Playwrights Award offers a cash prize of $7,500 for a full length, unproduced play of any genre written by an Australian playwright over 18 years of age. The readers and judges – who this year were Michelle Lim Davidson, Megan Wilding, Nick Schlieper and Paige Rattray – assessed the scripts in search of a work that is original and ambitious with great potential for staging.

Previous winners of the Patrick White Playwrights Award include Keziah Warner (2019), Mark Rogers (2018), Kim Ho (2017), Lewis Treston, (2016), Anna Barnes (2012), Melissa Bubnic (2010), and Angus Cerini (2007).

Emerging Writers Group

The new cohort of Emerging Writers – Monikka Eliah, Michael Louis Kennedy, Kirsty Marillier and Dylan Van Den Berg – will meet regularly over the course of two years under the guidance and mentorship of Kip Williams, Polly Rowe, Patrick White Playwrights Fellow Angus Cerini and resident directors. They will also attend performances of STC shows, observe rehearsals, read plays together and have a hot desk at STC’s offices at Walsh Bay.

The program is structured into three blocks:

– Skills and Craft Block (9 months): workshops and master classes with STC staff and industry professionals
– Script Development Block (1 year): develop a script with STC Literary Manager and Resident Artists
– Showcase Block (3 months): industry showcase, observership on an STC production

Monikka Eliah is an Assyrian-Australian writer who has participated in National Theatre of Parramatta’s Page to Stage program and whose work has been presented in STC’s Rough Drafts program and through the NTofP’s True West program.

Michael Louis Kelly is a playwright and writer based in Sydney. In 2019 he was a member of ATYP’s Fresh Ink program for emerging theatre voices and is currently undertaking a mentorship through Kill Your Darlings to develop a new Australian novel.

Kirsty Marillier is both a playwright and actor whose play Orange Thrower was presented as STC’s Rough Draft 44 and is now programmed at Griffin Theatre Company for a production later in 2021. Marillier is currently performing in STC’s Home, I’m Darling at the Sydney Opera House’s Drama Theatre.

Dylan Van Den Berg is Palawa writer and dramaturg whose play Milk was recognised at this year’s prestigious NSW Premier’s Literary Awards – taking out the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting.

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud

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