In conversation with Mary Anne Butler

Mary Anne Butler is a Darwin-based playwright who recently won the 2018 Northern Territory Literary Award’s Brown’s Mart Theatre Award for her play Cusp. Cusp was developed in 2017 through Playwriting Australia’s Ignition program, in partnership with the Australian Theatre for Young People. Cusp was then showcased in March at this year’s National Play Festival in Sydney. We asked Mary Anne some questions about her play and playwriting heroes.

1. What is your play about?

Cusp is about three Northern Territory teenagers who are on the cusp of adulthood. They each wrestle with looming life choices, and the expectations placed on them by family, peers and broader society. The play asks the central question: How do you move into the future, when the past keeps dragging you backwards?

2. What I like about my play is…

The incredible opportunity to collaborate with some of Australia’s finest theatre professionals.

3. The National Play Festival is exciting because…

It’s a great opportunity to connect with my playwriting peers, meet some industry people, learn a lot, be challenged, have a few laughs, engage in some interesting conversations and witness some incredible new works taking shape. Plus the privilege of having my own new work developed and showcased is huge.

4. How has the play changed from when you first brought the project to Playwriting Australia?

Australian Theatre for Young People and Playwriting Australia have supported Cusp’s development for a year now – and it’s changed hugely, largely as a result of the intelligent input from director Fraser Corfield, dramaturg Jane Fitzgerald, PWA’s Tim Roseman whose dramaturgical eye was in the development room, the three amazing NT actors who did the first development and the four amazing NSW actors who did the development and reading. That’s why I love theatre. Any play is the sum of a myriad of smart and talented folk, who generously give their skills and critical input, in order to help shape it. It’s such a great collaborative medium.

5. Who are your playwriting heroes?

Oh god, that’s a long list. Andrew Bovell, because his work is extraordinary plus he’s been a very generous mentor to many, including me. Mark O’Rowe, whose body of work changed my life. Sarah Ruhl, whose body of work changed my life. William Shakespeare. Patricia Cornelius, Stephen Carleton, Angela Betzien, Angus Cerini, Jack Davis, Jenny Kemp, Wesley Enoch, Deborah Mailman, Arthur Miller, Paula Vogel, Duncan McMillan, Sarah Kane, Conor McPherson, Harold Pinter. …shall I go on…?

Congratulations Mary Anne! To find out more about the Northern Territory Literary Awards click here

To read a synopsis of Cusp click here

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