Melbourne Theatre Company has launched its NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program – a $4.6 million investment in Australian writers funded by the visionary donors of MTC’s Playwrights Giving Circle and Melbourne Theatre Company.
The innovative five-year program introduces the most rigorous playwright commissioning and development process ever undertaken by MTC, setting a new benchmark for play development in Australia that will enhance the fabric, and legacy, of Australian live storytelling.
NEXT STAGE will provide a total of 50 opportunities for Australian writers, consisting of residencies and commissions across the five years of the program. It will also see an increase in resources dedicated to workshopping and developing plays from drafts through to production to ensure that they have been afforded every level of creative scrutiny and artistic support in making the finest possible work.
The program will ensure a minimum of 35 new play commissions, with flexibility in commissioning fees to allow writers additional time and resources to write; and up to 15 writer-in-residence opportunities for playwrights to embed themselves in the Company for up to three years.
“Our intention for NEXT STAGE is quite simple – to better support Australian writers,” said MTC Artistic Director Brett Sheehy AO. “However, the program is remarkable not simply for the significant increase in the annual number of commissions we will undertake, but for the meaningful length of engagement between writers and MTC. NEXT STAGE allows us to provide more opportunities for more writers, with better funding and deeper relationships with the Company.”
In the first year of the program, there will be seven commissioned writers and three writers-in-residence. The inaugural NEXT STAGE commissioned writers have been confirmed with Angus Cerini, Patricia Cornelius, Michael Gow, Benjamin Law, Joanna Murray-Smith, Leah Purcell and Ellen van Neerven under commission to begin work on new plays.
Residencies will be offered for up to three years, with writers receiving an annual stipend, office resources, Company support, regular meetings with the Artistic team and integration with all aspects of MTC’s operations including programming.
NEXT STAGE is a pivotal shift in the playwright development and commissioning landscape, providing extra resources and funding specifically focused on nurturing writers and their craft. $2.3 million of the funding has been donated by MTC’s Playwrights Giving Circle, matched by a $2.3 million investment from MTC.
“Since our earliest days, Melbourne Theatre Company has been the birthplace of some truly iconic Australian plays,” said MTC Chair Terry Moran AC. “Thanks to generous investment from MTC’s Playwrights Giving Circle, NEXT STAGE will take this legacy to a new level with greater resources, time and opportunities dedicated to supporting writers and their work.”
As part of the program, a national group of advisors has been established with whom MTC will consult about writers of promise from a range of creative disciplines. The group represents experts from a broad cross section of performance and literary fields and includes: Tony Ayres (Producer, director and co-founder of Matchbox Pictures); David Berthold (Artistic Director, Brisbane Festival); Lee Lewis (Artistic Director, Griffin Theatre Company); Rachael Maza (Artistic Director, Ilbijerri Theatre Company); Kate Mulvany (Actor and playwright); Simon Phillips (Director, former Artistic Director of MTC); and Morry Schwartz (Publisher, Schwartz Media).
“By investing in our writers, giving them the time and support needed to realise their ideas as fully developed plays, NEXT STAGE will have a significant role in helping to build a canon of great Australian works. And generations of Australians will reap the benefits,” added Sheehy.
MTC’s NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program commences in July 2017. Applications for the three inaugural NEXT STAGE residencies is now open, and close Monday 10 July 2017 at 5.00pm. For more information, visit: www.mtc.com.au for details.
Image: The inaugural NEXT STAGE commissioned writers include Angus Cerini, Benjamin Law, Patricia Cornelius, Ellen van Neerven, and Joanna Murray-Smith – photo by Jarrod Barnes.