December Update from Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays

We remain on track for a new national organisation to be operational in February 2021.

This follows the central recommendation of the independent REĂ Review: ‘that a new entity is formed incorporating agreed key functions of both Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays’.

What has been happening over the last few months?

Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia have been both operating as usual, and will continue to do so until the merger is complete in February.

At the same time, we have been working on fulfilling the complex legal and business requirements for the set-up of the new organisation – legal names, a new website, the merging of organisational resources, and creating new relationships.

We also met with the inaugural National Advisory Panel – a very welcome conversation – and expect to do so again soon.

Like many other organisations, we’ve also been applying for various kinds of funding!

What will happen in February?

If we meet our timeline (and we’re trying!), on a particular day in February the identified resources of Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays will legally merge under the name of a new organisation. From that day on, there will be a new website, new email addresses, and so on.

From that day, a new Board will also become active. The new Board will contain some representation from the former Boards of Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia (no more than two from each). There will be a new Chair.

One of the first actions of the new Board will be to appoint an Executive Producer, in line with the REĂ recommendations. This will be an open recruitment process.

What will the new organisation be called?

The new organisation will be called Australian Plays Transform (APT).

APT will help Australian plays transform into better versions of themselves through a variety of development opportunities. We also believe in a world where Australian plays transform those who connect with them – artists, audiences, societies. That’s why we will embrace publication and promotion, leading to more productions and study not only in leading theatre companies but also in community theatres, schools, universities and in spaces around the world. APT’s vision is a world made more just, curious and enjoyable by Australian plays.

What will stay the same?

Alongside what’s new, we have tried very hard to ensure appropriate levels of continuity. By that, we mean that the new organisation will develop plays in ways that build on what Playwriting Australia has done well; and it will publish and license plays in ways that build on what Australian Plays has done well. As part of this streamlined, consolidated model, there will be a balance of continuity and change in staffing, supporting new leadership.

If you have a contractual arrangement – creative or otherwise – with either of Australian Plays or Playwriting Australia, then we’ll be in touch to let you know what you need to do (if anything) before we merge in February. We’re aiming for a smooth transition.

Is the new organisation funded?

Both Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia – along with almost 50 other organisations – will be in receipt of COVID-19-related 2021 ‘transition funding’ from the Australia Council. For all organisations in this category, this will be approximately 70% of current funding. Australian Plays will also be in receipt of COVID-19 ‘Cultural and Creative Industries Stimulus Package’ funds from Arts Tasmania at the current annual level and Arts Rescue and Restart funding from Create NSW. The Australia Council, Arts Tasmania and Create NSW intend these funds be directed towards the new organisation.

It’s worth remembering that PWA has also been Catalyst-funded at $200,000 a year since 2017, ending this year. This has been directed entirely to the huge Ignition commissioning program and its iterations, with funds going directly to playwrights and their collaborators. This disappears in 2021. So, all up, the new organisation, in terms of federal funding, will be operating in 2021 at around 50% of the current combined funding of Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays. So, we’ll be stretched, like many others…

Dialogue with our valued donors has been ongoing.

Where will the new organisation be based?

We will have a small office in Sydney and a small office in Hobart. Some project staff are likely to be in other locations. But we also acknowledge that during the pandemic period physical offices have become less important as we all learn to work better online. Over time, if this feels like a beneficial thing, it might be possible to say that we are based more online than in any particular city. But that’s a bit down the track…

What are we looking forward to?

To launching! We’re very aware of the need for a national organisation of this type – the open sector consultation through the REĂ Review and the feedback we receive every week from playwrights makes that really clear – and we’re looking forward to kicking off APT in the best possible way. We’ve been so appreciative of the good support given by so many as we go through this very complex process.

For the first time, a national organisation will travel with playwrights through the life cycle of a work. It will seek new voices for new times, develop plays that change the national story, link them to production, publish them, promote them, and license them for future productions here and globally. We are looking forward to helping Australian plays to have the most profound and lasting impact as narratives for the nation, and for the world.

Dr Paul Dwyer, Chair Australian Plays  

David Berthold, Interim Executive Chair Playwriting Australia 

Carin Mistry, Executive Director Australian Plays

Michelle Kotevski, Company Manager Playwriting Australia

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