Future Directions: Strengthening Australian Playwriting Culture

Posted on June 25 2019

Playwriting Australia, the national play development organisation whose long term vision is to effect generational change in Australian theatre, today announced a number of strategic initiatives aimed at opening up new pathways to foster a new era of growth in Australian playwriting culture.  

Peter Wilson, Chair of Playwriting Australia, said:

“PWA has considered both its accomplishments over the last decade or more and the work being done by producing companies across Australia. The landscape has clearly changed significantly in that time. On our major stages Australian plays now make up the majority, gender parity has been achieved and companies are committed to maintaining it, First Nations storytelling has become central to our theatre, and there is a greater diversity of voices being produced. The microphone is being passed around.

“PWA is pleased to have played a part in this shift. And we believe it’s in the best interests of Australian playwriting that we, too, pass the microphone and leave space for something different.
“We believe that we are a part of a sector that is now better equipped to develop plays and playwrights than ever before. This is to be celebrated, and the time is right to invite an exploration of fresh pathways for play and playwright development, perhaps yet to be imagined.

“Like many cultural organisations of its scale, and especially those that don’t have the benefit of box office revenue, PWA has recently faced questions of sustainability. However, we believe that this decision, while difficult, will unlock a pathway to a more sustainable and better integrated model for developing the very best plays and playwrights, and open up the pipelines to our welcoming stages.”

Today’s actions will help ensure that PWA’s legacy is an even more resilient and resonant play development model with stronger links both to playwrights and, through performance outcomes, to audiences. 

Andrew Bovell, playwright and director of Playwriting Australia, said:

“This is not the first time that we've needed to take stock. Playwriting Australia rose from the ashes of the much loved ANPC and Playworks. That transition wasn't easy. Change never is. But it gave rise to an organisation better suited to the times. PWA has played a dynamic role in our theatre landscape since 2006 but now it’s time to consider what’s needed in the future.

“This is not easy for those who have been a part of this organisation and committed to its vision. We could hold on. We could keep doing the job we have been doing. Or we could say it’s time for change and step aside to allow a new vision to emerge. This is a great opportunity for all the stakeholders in new play and playwright development to come together to identify what we need now and how it might look. I look forward to being a part of that process.”

To help ensure that this transition results in the best possible outcome, there will be wide-ranging Review of play development in Australia, taking into account the encouraging new landscape and focusing on creating even stronger links between theatre companies and playwrights at all stages of their careers.

This Review will be conducted by independent consultant Richard Evans & Associates, and will include an opportunity for all interested stakeholders to provide views. It is hoped that the outcomes of the Review will include the creation of a stronger, fit-for-purpose national play development culture to succeed PWA. This Review has the support of the Australia Council.

Frank Panucci, Executive Director, Grants and Engagement of the Australia Council, said: 

“The Australia Council is invested in the best possible outcomes for the development of Australian plays, playwrights and playwriting being provided to the theatre sector for the benefit of artists and audiences. We look forward to engaging with the recommendations of the review proposed by the PWA Board”.

In the interests of this renewal, all employment positions in PWA are now redundant. The former executive leadership team of PWA, consisting of Lachlan Philpott (Artistic Director) and Michelle Kotevski (General Manager), look forward to participating in the next phase of constructing what might be a radical new model. The Board thanks them and all former staff for their dedication and service over the company’s lifetime

While the Review is undertaken, PWA remains committed to delivering on its existing program for 2019 including the First Nations Writers’ Retreat; the Duologue and Post Production programs. PWA will determine the most effective short term model to ensure consistency of 

delivery, including a possible arrangement with Griffin Theatre Company.  PWA’s reserves will be placed in trust and following the completion of the Review, these funds will be then used in a way that is commensurate with the recommendations of the Review.   

We hope that this will be a constructive and energising turning point in how we create the very best ways for new plays to reach our stages in their very best shape. We trust that all will participate fully in sharing their views about the most constructive way forward. It is a good time in Australian theatre, and we think this move will make times to come even better. 

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