On Monday 17 May, politicians, artists and interested onlookers will gather together to honour ‘many of Australia’s greatest writers and most significant works.’ Awards will be given for Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Children’s Literature and Scriptwriting for film, however in 2010 there will be no award for the best play.
Instead, according to the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards website ‘a grant of $30,000 will be made available to support professional development opportunities for new playwrights in 2011’.
The reaction amongst the playwriting community has been one of general frustration. Premier Kristina Keneally said the awards were established to, ‘Perpetuate a cultural legacy in our state; a legacy of ideas, imagination and history.’ But what legacy is perpetuated when work that has been created is not given the recognition it deserves? And were these qualities of imagination and ideas not present in any of the plays that premiered in 2009?
Short listed for the award in 2006, playwright Rebecca Clarke said: “I was dismayed at the decision. The award not only provides vital financial support to the winner, but it helps give a whole raft of nominees energy and inspiration to persevere.”
Some of the Australian plays which would have been eligible for the award, should it have been given include: Poor Boy by Matt Cameron and Tim Finn, Pig Iron People by John Doyle, Realism by Paul Galloway, Let The Sunshine by David Williamson, Concussion by Ross Mueller, Savage River by Steve Rodgers, Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah by Alana Valentine, Whore by Rick Viede, Goodbye Vaudeville Charlie Mudd by Lally Katz, Rockabye by Joanna Murray Smith, and Silver by Matthew Whittet. This is
only a sample of the plays which may have qualified, many of which were produced by esteemed mainstage companies in 2009.
In response to this decision, a group of playwrights and their industry peers will be holding their own function on the same evening to celebrate Australian playwriting and to assert its place in Australia’s theatrical and literary landscape. Speakers for the evening include Katharine Brisbane, Chair of Currency House and co-founder of Currency Press and John McCallum, past NSW Literary Award judge, Sydney theatre critic, senior lecturer in theatre and performance at the University of NSW and writer of Belonging: Australian Playwriting in the 20th Century.
Playwright Tahli Corin sayid: “We are taking this opportunity to celebrate the work of our peers, and the community that we are a part of. It is important to us that theatre and the work of playwrights is recognised as an essential part of the literary legacy of this country.”
An open invitation is extended to those who wish to join in the celebration. For more information and media enquiries please contact Rebecca Clarke on 0424 504 299 or [email protected] .
Full details, including up to date responses and public RSVP’s from playwrights are at: http://www.joannaerskine.com/cluster/