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A group of Australia’s best-known playwrights come together to create a new Playwriting Australia co-commission

The inaugural Betty Burstall Commission has been made possible by donations from a syndicate of experienced and respected Australian playwrights. Working in partnership with Griffin Theatre Company, the commission has been awarded to emerging Victorian playwright Michele Lee for her play Moths.

Twelve well-known Australian playwrights have donated to Playwriting Australia to cover half the commission fee, to be matched by Griffin Theatre Company. Named in honour of the beloved theatre pioneer, Betty Burstall, founder of La Mama Theatre in Melbourne, who died in June 2013, the playwrights are keen to see this become an annual commission.

It is inspiring that this collection of great people of Australian theatre has come together to create this co-commission syndicate” Playwriting Australia’s Artistic Director Tim Roseman said. “Michele Lee is a writer of imagination, verve and vision, and through Playwriting Australia’s partnership with Griffin and this syndicate of my heroes, it is joyous that her work is one step closer to being seen by the widest possible audience.”

The playwrights who have contributed to the commission are: Hilary Bell (NSW), Andrew Bovell (SA), Patricia Cornelius (Vic), Tom Holloway (Vic), Finegan Kruckemeyer (Tas), Suzie Miller (NSW), Kate Mulvany (NSW), Joanna Murray-Smith (Vic), Melissa Reeves (Vic), Robert Reid (Vic), John Romeril (Vic) and David Williamson (Vic).

The commissioned playwright, Michele Lee, is a promising writer out of Melbourne and was selected by Griffin Theatre Company in consultation with the donating playwrights.

Michele said she washumbled by the calibre of playwrights behind the commission: “It’s an innovative way to enrich the sense of community amongst playwrights.”

The playwrights also suggested Playwriting Australia name the commission after Betty Burstall, in recognition of her enormous contribution to the careers of so many Australian playwrights, including those in the syndicate.

“I owe my career to Betty,” David Williamson said, “if anyone’s memory deserves to be kept alive it’s Betty’s. She believed that Australian voices should be heard on Australian stages at a time when the theatrical establishment did very little to encourage Australian work, and she worked tirelessly and successfully to make it happen.”

Moths will be the fifth new play co-commissioned by Playwriting Australia with funds raised from syndicates of private donors, but the first in which the group is made up of other playwrights.


About Michele Lee

Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and theatre-maker who explores Asian-Australian identity in her work, intersecting themes of culture with other enquiries and questions about contemporary society. A text-based writer, her recent works include

the site-specific audio theatre piece Talon Salon (Next Wave Festival 2012, You Are Here Festival 2013, Darwin Festival 2013); the radio play See how the leaf people run (Radio National, 2012); the documentary theatre piece Moths (creative developments in 2012 and 2013, Highly Commended for the Griffin Award 2013); and documentary theatre piece The Colour White (Westside Circus, creative development 2012).

Michele is also the commissioned 2012/13 writer with Platform Youth Theatre, working on a satirical piece called Chaste, which explores Asia- Australian people’s relationship, or lack of, with Indigenous Australians. In 2009 Michele was an Asialink resident in Laos. In 2013, Michele is an Arts Start recipient and has travelled to the USA to make connections and learn from Asian-American playwrights and theatre artists. Transit Lounge is publishing Michele’s autobiography Banana Girl in November 2013.

 Moths was developed and showcased at the 2014 National Play Festival in Sydney

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La Mama remembers Betty Burstall

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