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The Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting Project provides training and mentoring for would-be playwrights.

Working across three states in an ambitious new partnership with not-for-profit organisation Performance 4a, Playwriting Australia is seeking to inspire a new wave of artistic voices in order to better represent Australia’s cultural diversity on stage.

‘There’s a specific major shortage of Asian-Australian playwrights in Australia, and when we did some research a few months ago – we were looking for published Asian-Australian texts – we were able to find five out of thousands and thousands of play texts in Australia. It’s a seismic problem. Work is being made but it’s not being made in a playwriting context and it’s certainly not reaching wide audiences,’ said Playwriting Australia Artistic Director, Tim Roseman.

To address this imbalance and develop new plays from perspectives rarely experienced in mainstage Australian theatre, the Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting Project will offer Asian-Australian writers access to a series of free playwriting workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and inclusion in a six-month mentoring program.

Performance 4a President and Executive Producer, Annette Shun Wah, said she hoped the project would provide new professional development opportunities for Asian-Australian artists.

‘In the short-term I’d like to provide an opportunity for Australians of Asian background who’d like to learn some writing skills; the opportunity to come along and pick some of those up and test their ideas and their ability, and hopefully be inspired by the workshops to be more confident in their ideas. And from my perspective too I see that that process is a way of helping us identify the people and the stories that might have potential for future development,’ she told ArtsHub.

‘Once people have gone through the initial workshops, they’ll be mentored by established playwrights over a six or eight month period to develop their story into a rough draft. By the end of it I hope to have the rough drafts of plays that we can actually produce; so I’m really hoping that we’ll get a small number of plays by the end of this process that we can take to the stage,’ Shun Wah said.

She stressed that the project was open to artists of all persuasions.

‘I’d particularly like to invite people from other artistic disciplines who would like to think about telling their stories in a different way, whether it be prose writers, performance artists, choreographers who are interested in using text, musicians perhaps who are interested in exploring text. I’d like to open it up to people who already have an artistic discipline as well as people who are budding playwrights.’

The Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting Project was ‘a long game,’ Roseman stressed.

‘There isn’t suddenly going to be an immediate stream of mainstage multicultural work. I think the key thing is that we look at this as the first stage in something that is probably a 20 or 30 year process. That’s how long I imagine it takes to address that imbalance in our culture. I don’t think it’s something we can turn around overnight, but the fact that there will be this body of work created by these pioneer Asian-Australian playwrights is going to be hugely important. And as their work gets explored, and in some cases produced, it throws a gauntlet down, and other people join that community and other people think about a way of making theatre that they can be part of. And as time progresses we move to a point where that doesn’t feel like exceptional behaviour but like a cultural norm,’ he said.

The Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting project will be launched with a preview workshop in Sydney on Wednesday 5 March. The first intensive workshop program will be held at La Boite in Brisbane in April. Click here for more details.

This article was written by Richard Watts and published on Arts Hub, Monday 24 February 2014.
Richard Watts is a Melbourne-based arts writer and broadcaster, and the founder of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. In addition to writing for ArtsHub, Richard presents the weekly program SmartArts on 3RRR. He currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging, and is a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts


Image: Pauline Nguyen in Performance 4a and Griffin Theatre Company’s The Serpent’s Table. Photo by Brett Boardman.

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