FIRST SEEN 2020 | creative journeys to the stage

First Seen - courtesy of The Street TheatreFIRST SEEN: NEW WORKS-IN-PROGRESS, The Street’s annual program for theatre-makers, returns in 2020. During May and August, two writers, Nigel Featherstone and Helen Machalias, progress their works to production-ready stage through creative development with directors, dramaturgs and actors.

As part of the program, Canberra audiences are invited to be a part of the creative process and provide their feedback on new plays. This year audiences are taken online for the first time into public showings of the 2020 works in progress via Zoom with the first showing of playwright Nigel Featherstone’s The Story of Oars on Friday 15 May 2020 at 5.00pm.

FIRST SEEN is an important part of The Street’s planning as it seeks to produce and present original and diverse Australian stories on its stages. Current works were chosen from 17 applications by FIRST SEEN Program Coordinator Shelly Higgs in consultation with The Street Theatre’s Artistic Director Caroline Stacey.

“Ultimately the works chosen were theatrically compelling with strong relevance; it’s such an important question with new work – why this, why now?” said Higgs.

Now in its ninth year, FIRST SEEN promotes the creation of high quality, original performance work, encouraging debate on issues and relationships central to the reality of Canberran lives. 2020 brings works immersed in Australia’s shores, privilege, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Street 2020 season features current and captivating plays that approach storytelling in new ways. Commencing in May, The Story of the Oars by Nigel Featherstone weaves mystery with music around the repercussions of childhood and the power of place.

In August, Barren Ground by Helen Machalias portrays the asylum seeker experience and the Australian detention system with a uniquely intriguing twist on a well-known classic. See below for more details on each play.

Previous FIRST SEEN seasons have taken audiences by surprise showcasing new plays from remarkable talents resulting in a significant number of works being produced by The Street and other companies. Earlier this year, Peter Cook’s first play, Breaking The Castle, one of last year’s works-in-progress had its world premiere at The Street Theatre and will return to the national stage in 2021.

“The work health and safety issues attached to the COVID-19 pandemic and theatre practice has resulted in a re-assessment of how we develop and make new plays, musicals, operas, and everything in between here at The Street,” said Artistic Director/CEO Caroline Stacey.

“The two-week workshop of Nigel’s play with songs brings the creative team and actors together online where we’re forging new methodologies and I’m curious as to what will emerge. It is creatively exciting to be in this space and we have just the right mix of artists undertaking this. We’re looking forward to what it means for our practice into the future.”

For more information about FIRST SEEN, visit: for details.

Image: courtesy of The Street Theatre

FIRST SEEN 2020 | creative journeys to the stage

The Story of the Oars by Nigel Featherstone
Summer somewhere on the east coast of Australia, 1987: three teenage brothers drown on a large ephemeral lake. Thirty years later, with the lake now dry, four strangers unburden themselves of the truth. Their lives will never be the same. A play with songs, The Story of the Oars is about the repercussions of childhood, and how facts have their way of revealing themselves. It’s also an exploration of class, privilege, and the power of place to enchant, repel, and mend.

Director: Zsuzsi Sobolsay Cast: Tracy Bourne, Tom Byrne, Sally Marett, PJ Williams Dramaturg: Anne-Louise Rentell

Nigel Featherstone is an Australian writer who has been published widely. His war novel, Bodies Of Men, was published by Hachette Australia in 2019 and was shortlisted in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards and received a Canberra Critics Circle Award. His other works include the story collection Joy (2000), his debut novel Remnants (2005), and The Beach Volcano (2014), which is the third in an award-winning series of novellas. He wrote the libretto for The Weight Of Light, a highly regarded political song cycle about an Australian soldier returning from Afghanistan; the work was commissioned by the Hume Conservatorium, produced by the Street Theatre in Canberra, and had its world premiere in 2018; it, too, received a Canberra Critics Circle Award. Nigel has held residencies at Varuna (Blue Mountains), Bundanon (Shoalhaven River), and UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Public Showing: Friday 15 May 2020 – 5.00pm

Barren Ground by Helen Machalias
Barren Ground takes place on the Christmas Island detention centre between 2010 and the closure of the centre in 2018, and merges elements of the plot, dialogue and characters of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with media reports of the Christmas Island detention centre and first-hand accounts of the asylum seeker experience within the Australian system.

Helen Machalias is a Canberra based writer who commenced her career as a journalist. She studied English and Theatre at the University of New England and University of Sydney. She has created work with Sydney Theatre Company, Riverside Theatres and Playwriting Australia, with a particular focus on theatre for young people. Helen has been highly commended three times in Sydney Theatre Company’s Young Playwright of the Year Award and had her work performed as part of the Favourite Shorts regional play festival. She participated in The Street’s Hive Program in 2010 and 2011. The resulting play, In Loco Parentis, which examined the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses, was performed at The Street as part of the Made in Canberra program for the Centenary of Canberra and won a 2014 Canberra Critics Circle Award. She most recently worked with The Street on a creative development of her stage adaptation of Robin Klein’s People Might Hear You.

Public Showing: Friday 4 September 2020 – 5.00pm