Funding loss a devastating blow for Australian Playwrights

Script StackAustralia’s leading digital publisher and promoter of theatrical texts, Australian Plays, has been advised that it will no longer receive critical organisational funding from the federal government through its funding body, the Australia Council for the Arts from 2021.

Australian Plays is recognised as the definitive digital home of Australian playwriting, attracting thousands of readers, theatre-makers, producers and educators nationally and internationally. This loss of funding places the organisation’s viability in jeopardy and directly threatens the livelihood of the nation’s playwrights – the most celebrated as well as the most exciting new and emerging talent.

In just the last three years, thanks to Australian Plays, over 300 new plays have been published, 50,000 scripts read online, more than 10,000 scripts purchased, almost 300 production licences issued, and royalties paid to over 800 playwrights. As a not-for-profit organisation, every dollar earned has been directed towards sustaining the careers of the playwrights whose creativity fuels the most vital stories on our nation’s stages.

“I know all Australian playwrights value the essential work of this small but highly effective organisation,” said Leading playwright and Australian Plays patron David Williamson, “They publish and promote their work across the professional, community and education sectors nationally and internationally. The loss of this organisation would be a major blow for Australian playwrights and their work.”

These concerns were echoed by leading playwright Jane Harrison author of Stolen and Rainbow’s End: “Australian Plays is so important for ensuring that work which is essentially ephemeral continues to have a lasting impact,” said Harrison.

“I really value their publishing of works by diverse and important voices across Australia and their website is a trove of information for anyone interested in Australian theatre. These are our Shakespeares and our Tennessee Williams. These are our voices.”

Other theatre professionals are equally concerned. Lee Lewis, Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre Company, where many classic Australian works have had their first production, stated: “Australian Plays has provided central services for Australian new writing for over 40 years from its base in Hobart,” said Lewis.

‘The way they now deliver services digitally means they have the most amazing local, regional, national and international reach and impact. If an Australian play is one of the thousands on their website then it’s so much more likely to be studied, researched, produced or remounted.”

Of the 412 companies that sought organisational funding from the Australia Council, a mere 39% have been invited to progress to the second stage of the assessment process. “It’s the playwrights we serve that I’m worried about,” said Paul Dwyer, Chair Australian Plays. “We will listen carefully to their concerns and keep them updated about our discussions with other key stakeholders and our many partners.”

“We’ll maintain all of our core services in the short-term, and look at alternative structures, but there are no guarantees we’ll still be around when our current Australia Council funding agreement expires at the end of 2020,” he added.

For more information about Australian Plays, visit: www.australianplays.org for details.

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