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This year the panel was overwhelmed by the high standard of work being produced throughout Australia. It further affirms the ability of playwrights and theatremakers to engage with the most pressing concerns of contemporary society and give them a human face and an emotional landscape through which we might better confront and understand them. There is a clear shift towards a storytelling culture on our stages that better reflects the diversity of our country. It is exciting to see the breadth of stories being told. The panel noted an increasing focus on stories that span multiple countries, helping us to understand Australia’s place within a global context. We were also heartened by a shift towards work using multiple languages which further illuminates the broadness of experience within Australian society and the hunger for audiences to experience it.
The judging panel
Jane McCredie is an award-winning journalist, writer and reviewer who has been widely published in Australia and internationally. A former book publisher, she is the CEO of Writing NSW and the founder and director of the Quantum Words Festival of writing about science. She is the author of Making Girls and Boys: Inside the science of sex and was coeditor of the 2013 anthology of The Best Australian Science Writing. Jane is a graduate of the Australia Council’s arts leaders program and has previously chaired both the Christina Stead and Douglas Stewart panels of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
Jennifer Medway has been the Literary Associate of Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) since 2017 and a practicing dramaturg for the past ten years. Across the last decade she has held positions such as: Resident Dramaturg at ATYP, Studio Artist at Griffin Theatre, Co-Artistic Director of the Crack Theatre Festival, Associate Artist-Dramaturgy at Belvoir and Literary Assistant also at Belvoir. Alongside working at MTC, Jennifer works as a freelance dramaturg for independent and mainstage theatre companies and script assessor working on major playwriting prizes nationally and internationally.
Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and theatre-maker working across stage, live art and screen. Her work is largely narrative-focused, in comedy and drama and explores stories of women, otherness and found families. She has been commissioned by Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Arts House, Next Wave Festival, Darwin Festival and Monash University.
Her play RICE won the 2016-17 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the 2018 Australian Writers’ Guild stage drama award and was a finalist for the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Nick Enright Prize. Her play GOING DOWN was a finalist for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Drama; a finalist for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Nick Enright Prize; a finalist for the 2019 Australian Writers’ Guild stage drama award and nominated for five 2019 Green Room Awards.
Michele has been awarded various residencies and fellowships and has assessed and judged for major awards/programs.
Jane Harrison, a Muruwari descendant, was commissioned by Ilbijerri Theatre Co-operative to write Stolen, about the Stolen Generations. Stolen premiered in 1998, followed by seven annual seasons in Melbourne, plus tours to Sydney, Adelaide, regional Victoria, Tasmania, the UK (twice), Hong Kong and Tokyo, and readings in Canada and New York. Jane was the co-winner (with Dallas Winmar for Aliwa!) of the Kate Challis RAKA Award for Stolen. Stolen is studied on the VCE English and NSW HSC syllabi.
On a Park Bench was workshopped at Playbox and the Banff Playrites Colony, and was a finalist in the Lake Macquarie Drama Prize. Rainbow's End premiered in 2005 at the Melbourne Museum and toured to Mooroopna, and toured Japan in 2007. Jane was the 2006 Theatrelab Indigenous Award winner for her most recent play, Blakvelvet. She contributed one chapter to Many voices: reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, published by the National Library, Canberra.
About the Prize
The Nick Enright Prize ($30,000) is offered for a play or a work of music drama given its first production in Australia between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018. The production may be given by a professional or amateur theatre company, but it must involve a season of several performances before a general audience.
Plays written by more than four authors are not eligible for the Play Award. Assessment will be made entirely on the literary merit of the written text, and not on the merits of a particular production. The prize money will be paid to the playwright/s. In the case of a work of music drama, the judges may decide that the award should be shared by the writer and the composer. In this instance, the composer must be a living Australian citizen or hold permanent resident status.
About Nick Enright
Nicholas Paul “Nick” Enright (1950-2003) was an Australian playwright and dramatist. After his graduation from Sydney University, he worked for Sydney’s Nimrod Theatre before being appointed as trainee director at the Melbourne Theatre Company. He won an Australia Council Fellowship to study directing at New York University where he began writing plays. After his graduation in 1977, Enright joined the State Theatre Company of South Australia as actor and director before becoming Head of Acting at NIDA in 1983 and 1984. All of his plays, including Blackrock and On the Wallaby, have been performed by the major Australian theatre companies. Enright also wrote three musicals, Variations winning the NSW Premier’s Literary Play Award in 1983. He was co-nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay of Lorenzo’s Oil (1992).