The drama surrounding Company B’s battle of the sexes took a dramatic twist on Sunday when Caleb Lewis was awarded the 2009 Philip Parsons Young Playwright’s Award despite withdrawing from the competition.
Lewis was named as a finalist in the prestigious competition but withdrew last month, claiming it had been overshadowed by debate over Company B’s employment of women in key artistic roles in the 2010 season.
Lewis was unhappy that a lecture would take place before the award was to be announced, discussing the topic of “where are the women”.
“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.
Company B bit back today though, incredibly announcing Lewis as the winner alongside Tahli Corin.
The winners will receive $5000 each to work on a script to first draft stage, as well as artistic and creative support from Company B Belvoir to develop their commissioned work.
“We are very much looking forward to working with Tahli and Caleb,” said Company B Artistic Director, Neil Armfield.
“It is an exciting process to watch works grow from their early beginnings into fully-developed scripts, and to nurture the work of young writers.”
Company B said the decision on the winner was made prior to Lewis’ decision to withdraw. In a statement, the company said Lewis had been uncontactable since pulling out.
“We were impressed by Caleb’s pitch this year, and hope that he will reconsider his decision to withdraw so we can offer him artistic and dramaturgical support to develop his work. In the meantime, we will keep his commission in trust,” Armfield said.
The Philip Parsons Award is given each year to a playwright whose work demonstrates an original and compelling theatrical voice, and the competition attracts the highest calibre of artists each year.
The award has a strong tradition of supporting new Australian writing and the work produced through the Award has a remarkable track record. Kate Mulvany’s The Seed premiered at B Sharp in 2007, moved to the Company B mainstage in 2008 and toured nationally in 2009. Brendan Cowell’s Ruben Guthrie premiered at B Sharp in 2008 and a new production was staged as part of Company B’s season in 2009. Tommy Murphy’s commission Gwen in Purgatory will premiere in Company B Belvoir’s 2010 season, directed by Neil Armfield. There are high hopes for Khoa Do, the 2008 winner, whose play To 100 Years of Happiness is still in development.
HOW THE DRAMA UNFOLDED
September 22: Joanna Erskine writes a blog, bringing to the theatre world’s attention the lack of female writers and directors involved in the 2010 Company B season. Neil Armfield rejects this, saying there is no “boy’s club” mentality.
November 19: Company B announces it will hold a lecture in December discussing the lack of women in key artistic positions in theatre.
November 24: Caleb Lewis, a finalist in the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award, sensationally withdraws from the competition.
December 6: Despite his withdrawal, Lewis is named as the winner of the Award at the Belvoir Street Theatre.