The can of worms opened by blogger Joanna Erskine surrounding Sydney’s Company B has taken a dramatic twist tonight, with playwright Caleb Lewis sensationally withdrawing from the Phillip Parsons Young Playwright’s Award.
Erskine questioned Company B over the lack of women in creative roles ahead of the 2010 season. Recently, Company B announced that the topic of “where are the women” will be the topic of the Phillip Parsons Memorial Lecture, to be delivered the same day as the Young Playwright’s Award winner is announced.
Lewis was named on the Young Playwright’s Award shortlist alongside Tamara Asmar, Van Badham, Tahli Corin and Nick Coyle.
“I feel that recent events have now overshadowed the award, politicising the announcement of a winner to such a degree that I no longer have faith in the panel’s ability to award the prize without bias,” Lewis said.
“Along with many in our industry I was dismayed at Company B’s announcement of its 2010 season and the absence of female writers and directors – especially given the amazing female creative talent we have on offer in this country.
“Now Company B has chosen the announcement of the Philip Parsons award as a chance to address this situation with a panel discussion entitled (somewhat myopically) ‘Where are the women?’ While this discussion is long overdue and I commend them for having it I believe the debate is too important, deserving of its own separate forum, and should not have been connected to the announcement of this year’s young playwright’s award.
“By announcing the award directly after this panel discussion Company B has radically politicised the event and risks undermining the entire argument by ensuring that none of the young shortlisted writers will ever know if the award is being given on merit or as part of some wider polarising political statement.”
Lewis said he won, he would always wonder if it was because he was a man and was part of the status quo. He said he would wonder the same thing if he lost.
“This is my third time shortlisted for the award (2006, 2008 & 2009). I will not be entering the competition again,” Lewis said.
“To the other shortlisted writers, I congratulate all of you. It is unfortunate that the awarding of this accolade – one of few in the country for playwrights – has this year been overshadowed.”