Reflecting on the Lotus Program

Words by Facilitator and dramaturg Mina Morita (AD of Crowded Fire Theatre San Fran)

Posted on June 25 2019

It is remarkable to recognize that a coming together of six playwrights and two director/dramaturgs has the potential to dramatically effect the course of Asian representation in Australian theater for future generations.

Four years ago Playwriting Australia recognized that only a handful of plays by Asian Australian writers had been produced nationally. In response, this organization sought to do something about it by creating a visionary four-year program to connect with, support, and champion existing Asian Australian writers. These past four years have been vital.

It was my great honor to lead the final, culminating stage in this program with a coming together of these six writers and co-dramaturg in a 10-day retreat. What I experienced is a cohort of artists prepared to challenge the new play development processes in the current theater-making paradigm; to encourage further excellence via different cultural influences; to re-imagine audiences; and to support up-and-coming artists in standing by their vision of a new theater. Much like the David Henry Hwangs, Philip Kan Gotandas, and Jessica Hagedorns of the United States, these powerful Australian artists will be remembered as the voices who shaped a new understanding of narrative.

We immersed ourselves for 10 glorious days, examining the state of our theater (through articles and research review), sharing our experiences with problematic paradigms, reading examples of genius new work by other playwrights of color (including Pulitzer prize winning works), and building our strength of voice as an affinity group of playwrights/dramaturgs who can support each other. This included specific dramaturgical notes sessions, rewriting, and reading of each playwright’s plays. For some it was a return to writing with any kind of joy.

After working with and seeing how the most remarkable playwrights of our time were afforded opportunities (i.e.: Jackie Sibblies Drury, Christopher Chen, Lauren Gunderson), my hope is that the Lotus playwrights will continue to be championed. More importantly, I hope to see their work embraced for what it wants to do rather than what an institution or well-meaning dramaturg believes it should do. What is so critical in the making of your national theater voice is the unconditional belief in the vision of the playwright, and really hearing what a play wants to be. The investment in a lab experience where plays can exist in production to rise and fall is immeasurable. The continued investment in these voices and others will invite a theatrical imagination that will supersede anything in our current paradigm of theater-making.

Credit: Adam Tolbert

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