Red Stitch to present Australian premiere of new Joanna Murray-Smith play

RSAT American Song - photo by Rob Blackburn Photography and Work Art LifeRed Stitch has revealed its 2017 mystery play, announcing that it will present the Australian premiere of Joanna Murray-Smith’s American Song in October. Commissioned in the United States and first produced there in 2016 to great acclaim, American Song reaches beyond national or cultural borders, in an intimate exploration of parenting, love, and the question: What could I have done differently?

Directed by Tom Healey, American Song is a provocative and profound tour-de-force for one actor, performed by Red Stitch ensemble member Joe Petruzzi. This will be the second of Murray-Smith’s works to be produced by the company, following the critically acclaimed, sell-out season of Day One, A Hotel, Evening in 2011.

The addition of American Song to the Company’s line up creates a showcase of three new works by Australian female playwrights as the final productions of Red Stitch’s 2017 season, and half of the year’s plays by local writers. The other two productions – The Way Out by Josephine Collins and Desert, 6:29pm by Morgan Rose – are both world premieres developed through the company’s ground-breaking INK new writing program.

Red Stitch has been developing new Australian writing since 2006, and the company’s commitment to local writers took an exponential leap with the introduction of INK in 2014. From 2015, world premieres developed by Red Stitch have comprised 25% of the company’s performance seasons, including multi- award-winning productions such as Jurassica (Dan Giovannoni) and Dead Centre (Tom Holloway).

Artistic Director Ella Caldwell says developing new Australian writing and producing it alongside premieres of international work places our writers’ work exactly where it ought to be – alongside the best in the world.

“Our INK program is defined by the bespoke, writer-centric development opportunities offered to our artists over an extended time-frame, and the ongoing relationship between our ensemble and playwrights,” says Caldwell. “We believe this ongoing collaboration is pivotal in taking new work to its full potential.”

“There is an inherent risk in making art, and through INK we offer one of the most important ingredients that make it possible – belief. I’m thrilled to be working with so many exceptional playwrights at all stages in their careers. The ensemble and our audiences are inspired by their work.”

As well as the two world premiere productions this year, Caldwell says Red Stitch is working on eight other new works, all at various stages and being developed with the intention of making it to the stage. For a company of Red Stitch’s size and limited resources this is a great feat, however Caldwell says the rewards are manifold for artists and audiences alike.

The Way Out, the first full length play by Australian playwright Josephine Collins, is directed by Penny Harpham. It is set in a darkly imagined Australian future, and examines family loyalty and the mercurial nature of the moral stance. Desert, 6:29pm by Morgan Rose is directed by Bridget Balodis, returning to the company following her Green Room nominated work on Jurassica by Dan Giovannoni. Desert, 6:29pm deftly explores the political through the deeply personal.

“Having worked with Josephine and Morgan for three years developing their scripts, we cannot wait to share the world premieres of The Way Out and Desert, 6:29pm with Melbourne audiences,” says Caldwell. “Joanna is one of our country’s leading playwrights, and it is a privilege to premiere this truly exquisite, remarkably insightful solo work for her home town.”

The Way Out
By Josephine Collins
Directed by Penny Harpham
22 August – 24 September
In a dystopian future Australia, Helen and her civil war veteran father sell moonshine to a broken town, struggling to survive in a poisoned landscape. Helen sees a way out, but no-one is listening. The fragile world they’ve constructed is thrown into crisis when a government inspector arrives on the same day as a black market salesman, forcing Helen to confront the darker side of their family history.

American Song
By Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Tom Healey
3 October – 5 November 
Andy has much in common with many of us: the slow accumulation of a good life; love, work, friendship, children. But unforeseen events lead him to places he never imagined… Can we ever know the exact moment when a good life turns irredeemably bad? Directed by Tom Healey, this witty philosophical theatrical jewel reveals the terrifying ways our ordinary lives can become extraordinary.

Desert, 6:29pm
By Morgan Rose
Directed by Bridget Balodis
14 November – 14 December
A small town in the middle of nowhere, it’s dinnertime and we are invited into the lives of Xan, her mother and father Crystal and Rico, and her older brother Jamie. This is a family who long ago stopped talking to one another about who they really are and what they really need. Rose is one of the most exciting emerging playwrights in Australia, bringing her unique humour and attention to detail to this heart-breaking, finely wrought new work.

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Image: American Song – photo by Rob Blackburn Photography and Work Art Life