Critical Stages Touring Commissions Sixteen New Australian Stories for Stage and Screen

Critical-Stages-Touring-Come-to-Where-I-Am-AustraliaAfter a rigorous selection process, sixteen new plays about the places we live are destined for both live performance and digital distribution for Come to Where I Am – Australia, the exciting new writing and performance initiative from Paines Plough and Critical Stages Touring, Australia’s national touring theatre company.

In response to a rapidly changing world, where all touring and live performance is currently on hiatus, Paines Plough launched Come To Where I Am. In partnership with theatres across the UK and beyond, 30+ new short plays from writers about the places they call home have been shared with online audiences as visual-audio pieces. All donations made to this project go directly towards employing writers to deliver more excellent new writing during COVID-19.

“I couldn’t be more excited to share this project, which started as a creative response to the lockdown, an inversion of our usual model of touring artists to perform for audiences in all corners of the country,” said Chris Bendall, CEO of Critical Stages Touring. “This project gives us all an opportunity, from the safety our homes, to hear stories directly from the places that inspired them.”

“It’s been a joy to work with Paines Plough, a company I have long admired for their deep commitment to new writing and regional audiences. I hope that this is just the beginning of our relationship with them, and I also hope that our collaboration with these wonderful artists and their work continues beyond the digital form, so that when our theatres re-open we will be able to present these new works to live audiences in the very places that inspired them.”

Come to Where I Am – Australia was initially created to support the development of seven new stories, engaging writers in regional and remote towns to craft a snapshot of what life is like in their part of the country right now. The program has been recently expanded to accommodate an additional nine writers thanks to a Covid-19 support grant from the Australia Council for the Arts and private donations.

The sixteen stories come from across the country and represent a mix of rural, regional, suburban and city experiences from a diverse group of authors that includes award-winners Samah Sabawi (VIC), Mary Anne Butler (NT), Jeanette Cronin (QLD), Vanessa Bates (NSW) and comedian Jon Bennett (SA).

Highlights include a story of music and connection between generations in Western Sydney from James Elazzi (Lady Tabouli); a tree-change tale from Tahli Corin (One for the Ugly Girls) and Joshua Tyler (Top End Wedding); and a new piece weaving together old and new stories of the Noongar people from Wilman Noongar artist Ian Michael (HART).

The project is based on an exceptionally successful program from UK project partner Paines Plough. Since 2010 Paines Plough have engaged more than 160 playwrights with invitations to write and perform short plays about their home towns and the places that shaped them, distributed globally through their smartphone and tablet app – Come to Where I’m From.

The new Australian works will be produced as video postcards, filmed on location by the writers in the region they are writing about. It is intended that the short films will live beyond their initial digital premieres, with live performances to be staged at venues across the country when restrictions are lifted. They will also be hosted on Paines Plough’s YouTube channel.

“We are so delighted to be working with Critical Stages on the International arm of Come To Where I Am,” said Charlotte Bennet and Katie Posner, Joint Artistic Directors of Paines Plough. “This project gives us an opportunity to share stories from a group of outstanding writers that we may not have been able to connect with otherwise, and we are so excited to be able to platform their voices through our digital channels. We are looking forward to growing our relationship as two national touring companies who share a commitment to developing writers and championing new stories.”

Come to Where I Am – Australia is part of a broader digital production and engagement strategy undertaken by Critical Stages touring in response to the pandemic. The first episode of Come to Where I Am – Australia will premiere on the Critical Stages Touring website, social channels and streaming service Vimeo and on the Paines Plough YouTube channel on Wednesday 19 August 2020. For more information, visit: www.criticalstages.com.au for details.

Image: (top l-r) James Elazzi, Mary Anne Butler, Ross Mueller and Margaret Davis, (bottom l-r) Jeanette Cronin, Jon Bennett, Tess Rose and Peter Matheson (supplied)

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