A new vision for Playwriting in Australia

Playwriting AARPlaywriting Australia (PWA) has released a Review from REA Consulting, led by prominent arts leader Richard Evans, outlining a new vision for the future of play and playwright development in Australia.

PWA commissioned the Review to assist with decisions about its future. It sought views from playwrights, the wider theatre sector and other stakeholders about the most effective and sustainable model of supporting play development in a changed and changing environment, and how best to activate the skills and infrastructure of Playwriting Australia.

A total of 94 written submissions were received and a further 30 interviews were undertaken. PWA thanks all those who submitted views. The wide support for the process was hugely welcome.

The Review outlines a consolidated vision for play and playwright development in Australia. It recommends the creation of a new entity better able to respond to the changing environment of the theatre sector, prioritising paths to production.

The new entity will be designed to have an enlarged and tangible play development pipeline from discovery, to development, to production, to publication, promotion and licensing, with direct education and community outcomes.

The Review recommends that this new entity be forged through combining the key functions and goals of two organisations, Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays, and addressing some gaps and opportunities identified by the sector.

The Board of PWA fully supports all of the recommendations of the Review, and looks forward to working with Australian Plays and other stakeholders to determine how best to implement them. It believes that the Review articulates a path that promises huge benefits, not only for playwrights, but for the Australian theatre more generally.

In accordance with the Review recommendations, the PWA Board has agreed to immediately implement the transitional governance arrangements. Theatre and festival director David Berthold will commence as Executive Chair on Wednesday 19 February. He will be supported by a small interim board and current staff. In the lead up to the creation of the new entity, PWA will continue to deliver a full program of activities.

“The Review has done what it said on the tin. We were confident that a robust, independent, inclusive process would find a better way,” said Outgoing PWA Chair Peter Wilson. “The new organisation will be able to do more for playwriting and playwrights than either organisation before it and do so on a more sustainable basis. It deserves broad support. I look forward to being one of those supporters.”

Incoming Executive Chair David Berthold believes that this is a once in a generation opportunity. “If we land this idea – and it will only land if we all get behind it – for the first time Australia will have an organisation that works with playwrights through all stages of a play’s life cycle,” he said.

“Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays have both been very successful organisations, but both have struggled with scale. Their leanness is admirable, but an ongoing source of tension. I believe that the creation of this larger organisation-the final shape of which will be the subject of the hard work ahead- will have advantages of scale that will benefit all.”

“This is not about a simple merger. It’s about the creation of a new entity that I believe will be greater than the sum of any two parts. A window has opened, and if we don’t go through it now, we might be waiting for another ten years. I know we can do this, and do it well, for the advancement of an Australian theatre inspired by a lively, diverse and sustainable playwriting culture.”

Australian Plays Chair Paul Dwyer also welcomed the Review and its recommendations. ”This is such a critical time for Australian playwrights. Great work is being made and many writers have benefited from the terrific development opportunities offered by PWA,” he said.

“For these plays to live in the culture, to be widely read and studied, to receive multiple productions (and, importantly, for authors to see some financial return on their labours), they also need to be published and promoted as widely as possible, nationally and internationally. We look forward to working through the details of how the proposed new entity can preserve and enhance support services that we know are hugely valued by playwrights.”

A copy of the review can be downloaded here! For more information, visit: www.pwa.org.au for details.