March 31 2020

 

UPDATE FROM PLAYWRITING AUSTRALIA AND AUSTRALIAN PLAYS

Since the release of the REA Review, Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia have been in regular conversation and broader consultation about next steps.

Both organisations wholeheartedly believe that the central recommendation of the Review – ‘that a new entity is formed incorporating agreed key functions of both Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays – represents the best possible future.

We are aiming to combine the best of our two homes and to add something new, too. This new home for Australian plays will, we hope, and for the first time, walk side-by-side with playwrights throughout the life cycle of their plays. From the earliest discovery, through to development and towards production, then onto publication, promotion and licensing. Advocacy will be stronger, as will our relationships with the producing companies, and the education and community sectors. We hope to increase our national scope even further. Strength will come from critical mass.

 

What are we doing right now? Essentially, we’re in the due diligence phase. This means that we are reaching a very detailed understanding of each other’s organisation – our constitutions, governance, operations, resources, right down to how to how much money we spend on internet providers. It’s necessary, first-steps work. This is so that we can enter a marriage with eyes wide open.

We have discovered that, despite our very different histories and ways of operating, we have a great deal in common, perhaps even more than was first obvious. That’s buoyed us.

We’ve also been taking more soundings, connecting with playwrights and key sector organisations. We recently had a very constructive meeting with the Playwrights Committee of the Australian Writers' Guild. This is all ongoing work, making sure that we establish the best possible foundations. 

 

Do we know what the new entity looks like? Not yet. We don’t yet have a Board, or any staff, or a strategic plan, or anything like that. But we are looking closely at the REA Review recommendations that make suggestions about these things and starting to test them. This is our next slice of work – work that will need to be both assiduous and speedy – and work that will be done in close consultation with many. 

Part of that consultation will be the establishment of a diverse National Advisory Panel. This was a key recommendation of the Review:

 

Recommendation 10. That a diverse National Advisory Panel of six playwrights drawn from across the sector, four representatives from the major producing companies, and two representatives from the small to medium and independent sectors be formed to help guide the new organisations strategic focus.

 

If we get this new entity up, this voluntary panel will eventually work closely with the new board and staff to help set longer term agendas. The REA Review recommends that it meet four times a year, with positions cycling off every two years in a staggered fashion. Companies would fund the attendance of their own members, and playwrights would be afforded assistance as required to attend meetings in person (when we can do that!).   

We thought it’d be really useful to form that panel now, rather than wait, to help the Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia teams to best shape the foundations of the new entity. The Panel should clearly embrace cultural, gender and geographical diversity. That’s really important. In helping us to select this panel, we welcome expressions of interest. If you feel you can contribute, then put your hand up. Details out soon…

 

Is this new entity funded? No. Both Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays are now in their final year of their four-year funding, and so both will deliver their 2020 programs. However, neither have Australia Council grants going into 2021, and the new entity (which doesn’t yet exist) doesn’t either. It’s clear to us that this new entity can only be born if the Australia Council makes a strategic response to a clearly dire situation for playwrights and for the theatre companies that amplify their voices.

So the stakes are high. We want to assure you that we have made very strong representations to the decision-makers, through all kinds of channels, and have also appreciated those who have advocated powerfully on behalf of this bold idea. Want to write a letter? Go for it. The simple fact is that the idea will not be realised without significant federal investment. 

 

How has COVID-19 changed things? The production licensing part of Australian Plays has taken a hit of course. Producers in the professional, education and community sectors are developing digital solutions to the postponement or cancellation of live performances. The Australian Plays team is busy providing guidance and advice whilst maintaining an eagle eye on the rights and income of playwrights.

But Playwriting Australia is not reliant on box office, and so is very keen to roll out its COVID-revised 2020 program very soon, especially since most of our funds go directly into freelance artists' pockets.

Thinking ahead to a post-virus world, we can only imagine that theatre companies – those that survive – will be focused on getting productions in front of audiences again and will have a reduced capacity for play development. Quite probably, they will also have less appetite for ‘risky’ new work. We’re also acutely aware that there will be hard losses coming out of the upcoming Australia Council’s announcements of the next round of four-year funding. Our feeling is that in this diminished environment, this new national entity will be more in demand, and be more consequential, than it seemed even three months ago. Our national culture will crave the new stories and the new voices of these times - just when there are fewer organisations able to identify and nurture them. 

We have been so heartened by the wonderful support expressed by so many. Its clear that there is a common goal: the best possible environment for the nurturing and positioning of exceptional playwriting that reflects, refracts and refreshes the society in which we live.

 

We hand-on-heart promise to work diligently to make the most of this moment for the good of all.

 

- AUSTRALIAN PLAYS AND PLAYWRITING AUSTRALIA

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13 MARCH 2020

Australian Plays acknowledges the supportive and measured statement by the Australian Writers’ Guild to the REA Report A Consolidated Vision for Plays and Playwriting in Australia.

Since Australian Plays received news in August 2019 that our Expression of Interest for renewed, multi-year organisational funding from the Australia Council for the Arts was not successful, we have been in regular contact with the Australian Writers’ Guild. The Guild has expressed both support for our services and concern  about their possible loss or diminution. We believe that the best option for protecting these valuable services lies in the major recommendation of the REA Report, namely ‘that a new entity is formed incorporating agreed key functions of both Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays.’

Board and staff representatives of both Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia have commenced discussions about the optimal way of combining our strengths. It’s a complex process, given that the two organisations have different histories, functions and models of operation. However, both organisations have long supported Australian playwrights and playwriting in complementary ways and the goal towards which we are now working is clear and compelling: the proposed new entity represents an exceptional opportunity for playwrights to receive support across the full life-cycle of playscript development, production, publication, dissemination, licensing of further productions and promotion right across the professional, community and educational theatre sectors, nationally and internationally.

We know how vital it is to get the foundations right for this new entity. We understand the need to connect with playwrights and key sector organisations as part of the planning process. We very much welcome the constructive suggestion that Australian Writers’ Guild is able to offer an important channel for some of these ongoing conversations.

In the meantime, Australian Plays continues to offer its full range of services, and maintaining commitments to our small, highly experienced and dedicated staff. The Board of Australian Plays acknowledges, however, that we have no committed grant support beyond December 2020. We are therefore continuing to look at options for transitional funding in order to be able to trade through the period required for the new entity plans to come to fruition.

The stakes are high and the support of the theatre sector is vital. Australian Plays has important publishing and production agreements in place with hundreds of playwrights and producers. We promote and sell plays published by us and important publishing partners including Currency Press and Playlab – in 2019 we sold over 12,000 playscripts by over 700 playwrights.  We have multiple partnerships that help us to maintain and develop themed collections of plays and to promote new work at home and abroad.

We desperately want to continue this work that helps to sustain the careers and livelihoods of playwrights by bringing their playscripts to the widest possible audience. We look forward to fleshing out plans for the new entity in collaboration with Playwriting Australia and to engaging with the Australian Writers’ Guild and other stakeholders as these plans take shape.

 

Regards,


Paul Dwyer
Australian Plays' Chair 


Carin Mistry
Australian Plays' Executive Director 

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18 FEBRUARY 2020

Australian Plays and Playwriting Australia are to commence discussions on combining their resources and expertise. We hope to consolidate and build on our achievements to date and to develop new ways of providing key services to playwrights for the full-cycle of play development, publishing, advocacy, and promotion. We want to increase opportunities for the work of Australian playwrights to make an impact across all sectors encompassing education, community and professional contexts - nationally and internationally. Playwrights and their work are at the core of the vision of this new entity which will be underpinned by principles of partnership, diversity, openness and ambition. This decision was a key recommendation of the report commissioned by Playwriting Australia last year which is published today. That report and a media release from Playwriting Australia can be read here -  www.pwa.org.au.

We have faced some big funding challenges in recent months but we’ve been constantly buoyed by the unwavering support received from our community of playwrights, producers, educators and others. We’ve had some encouraging discussions with a range of new partners and we plan to continue those as part of the process of creating this new, consolidated entity with Playwriting Australia. We are excited to come together with them to create this new entity which, like everything we do will have the needs of Australian playwrights at its heart. As that work happens we will continue our core activities of publishing new plays, promoting and selling work by our publishing partners, licensing productions and developing new Collections. Despite the challenges we’ve faced over the last six months we’ve had a really successful year.

During January the six scripts featured in our Sydney Festival Collection were read over a thousand times. We’re about to launch a new partnership with the Atelier Theatre Company in New Delhi, India and we’re building our Nimrod Online Collection for launch this year. At this very important time please don’t forget to keep visiting our website, buy a play, read some of our great content, watch an interview and spread the word. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Regards,


Paul Dwyer
Australian Plays' Chair 


Carin Mistry
Australian Plays' Executive Director 

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DECEMBER 2019 
 
It’s traditional in December to look back on the great things that have happened at Australian Plays over the year and 2019 is no exception. However, many of you will be aware that we are faced with some significant challenges in relation to the future funding of our small but highly efficient, mainly Hobart based organisation. Everyone at Australian Plays – board and staff – is working tirelessly behind the scenes exploring a range of options to help ensure that we not only survive but thrive well into the future. We know - and it has been underlined by the hundreds of messages of support that we have received - that our services play a vital part in the Australian theatre ecology and they are highly valued by our communities of playwrights, producers, teachers, educators, students and our partners. Many people have asked us whether they can make a donation to support us in 2020 and beyond and we’re delighted to launch the new donations page on our website.


 
The ambition and vision of Australian Plays burns bright and 2019 has been an amazing year in so many ways and we’re brewing up some exciting new projects and partnerships for 2020.

This year we launched two fantastic new online Collections:
 

 
We have published three Red Door plays alongside illuminating playwright interviews with our Literary Manager John Kachoyan which provide really interesting insights into the process of writing and the experience of being a playwright.
 

 
Each year we work with a number of very important partners that help us to extend the breadth and impact of our work. This year we welcome new partner the Atelier Theatre in New Delhi, India. We aim to be working with them over coming years to strengthen the links of new writing for performance between our respective countries. The first stage of this project will be dramatised readings of Australian plays as part of the Atelier Campus Theatre Festival in February 2020.
 
We are delighted to be working with the Sydney Festival again in 2020. For the month of January you can read six of the plays featured in the Festival's rich and extensive theatre program and view the great discussion we filmed recently between our Literary Manager and Festival Artistic Director Wesley Enoch.
 
We want to thank everyone -  the playwrights, producers, teachers, educators, partners, funders, readers, subscribers and lovers of Australian plays that have supported us in 2019. You have helped us to publish over 130 plays and counting, to sell thousands of plays, to forefront the voices and views of playwrights in our State of Play essay series and to promote work that truly reflects the diversity of Australian theatre in form, content and authorship. We are here to support Australian playwrights and their work, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and we do that with enthusiasm and pride.
 
Best wishes for the holiday season and for 2020.

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November 2019

 

DRAMA AUSTRALIA’S STATEMENT: Defunding Australian Plays, Playwriting Australia and Ausdance National

 

October 2019

A MESSAGE FROM THE AUSTRALIAN PLAYS BOARD


MEDIA RELEASE - 4 OCTOBER 2019
 
Our staff and board held an all day planning meeting on 14 September. Despite the fact that we are facing some real challenges, the level of commitment to and belief in the vital services we provide to Australian playwrights and their work has not faltered. We continue to receive incredibly heartening messages of thanks for the work we do.
 
We have to consider a range of scenarios for 2020 and beyond. These range from continuation of our current model (which would require significant new and confirmed resources/investment) to an orderly and well-considered wind-up of our operations. We have submitted an application to the Australia Council for the Arts for 2021 but this is for less than 50% of our current funding from them. We have commenced discussions with potential new partners and with philanthropists and foundations.
 
We were really delighted that Arts Tasmania confirmed funding for 2020. Support from Arts Tasmania is a vital part of the framework that supports our mainly Hobart based operations. Although we are firmly a national organisation we have always had a priority focus on Tasmania, partly because of our history and location but also that the skills of our team make a valuable contribution to the local theatre ecology. In fact, our Literary Manager is currently on the island working with Blue Cow Theatre and ATYP on their Future Proof project.
 
This is still a very uncertain time for Australian playwrights and their work. We look forward to further discussions with the Australia Council for the Arts once they have been able to consider the recommendations of the review commissioned by Playwriting Australia, being conducted by REÄ‚ Consulting. The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) provided an alternative submission process for that consultation that had a question related to us. AWG told us this week ‘every comment about Australian Plays was favourable. Not one comment was negative. Your service is greatly valued’.
 
We know that playwrights are our greatest advocates, but in the messages of support and concern we have also been thinking about the impact we make on producers and directors. As Queensland Theatre's Artistic Director Sam Strong said on Twitter ‘the potential loss of this organisation would be a terrible blow to playwrights…publishing scripts is a vital part of a healthy new writing culture, extending the reach and lives of works and connecting a lonely artform to a community’. And Joanne Kee, Executive Producer of Riverside's National Theatre of Parramatta said recently to our board member, playwright Hilary Bell 'producers really depend on Australian Plays. I can’t imagine the chaos if everyone has to track down playwrights individually’.
 
The next three months will be critical for us. Please keep letting decision makers know how much Australian Plays is valued and needed. Keep visiting our website, buy a play, watch an interview or consider producing an Australian play.

 


Paul Dwyer
Australian Plays' Chair 

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You might want to consider sharing your concerns about maintaining support services for Australian playwriting with the CEO and Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts or with the Minister for the Arts.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts - Hon Paul Fletcher MP Paul.Fletcher.MP@aph.gov.au

CEO, Australia Council for the Arts - Adrian Collette, AM:  a.collette@australiacouncil.gov.au

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MEDIA COVErAGE

Thank you to ABC Hobart, ABC Sydney, ABC Radio National, Arts Hub, Eureka Street, 7-ON, Daily Review and The Monthly for the following coverage: 

 

OCTOBER 2019 - THE MONTHLY

Alison Croggon’s important article on the state of Australia arts and culture - The desertification of Australian culture - looks at a range of urgent issues including the huge stresses on individual artists and the challenges that many small to medium arts organisations are facing -

‘Australian Plays, on the other hand, says it is now engaged in a battle for survival. AP was blindsided by its rejection for four-year Australia Council funding, and for good reason: it had done everything right to establish itself as an essential service organisation for playwrights, attracting thousands of readers, theatre-makers, producers and educators nationally and internationally.’ - Alison Croggon

 

7 SEPTEMBER 2019 - 7ON

An open letter from 7-ON PLAYWRIGHTS to Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts and to Adrian Collette, CEO Australia Council for the Arts can be read here.

 

6 SEPTEMBER 2019 - Daily Review

Daily Review article by Joanna Murray-Smith: Australia Council's Demotion of Plays and Playwrights

'Australian Plays support the earnings of playwrights and the dreams of small theatre makers to invigorate our towns and cities with the Australian imagination.' - Joanna Murray-Smith

 

3 SEPTEMBER 2019 - ABC Radio National

Michael Cathcart interviewed Australian Plays' Chair Paul Dwyer on Radio National's Stage Show 3 on September 2019 The Stage Show - ABC Radio National

 

22 AUGUST 2019 - ABC Sydney

Simon Marnie from ABC Sydney interviewed Australian Plays’ Chair Dr Paul Dwyer and board member/playwright Hilary Bell on 24 August 2019 Saturday Breakfast (interview starts at 1:14).

 

22 AUGUST 2019 - ABC Hobart

John Xintavelonis from ABC Radio Hobart interviewed playwright Tom Holloway and Australian Plays' Executive Director, Carin Mistry on 22 August 2019. 

  

 

21 AUGUST 2019 - Currency Press

We would like to thank our publishing partners, Currency Press for this powerful press release issued on 21 August, 2019: Defunding Playwriting Australia and Australian Plays threatens the entire eco-system of Australian theatre.

 

21 AUGUST 2019  - Arts Hub

Arts Hub article by Alison Croggon : Writers hit back at funding cuts

 

20 AUGUST 2019  - Eureka Street

Eureka Street article by Esther Anatolitis : Restoring Australia's cultural ambition

 

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A message from the Australian Plays' Board

MEDIA RELEASE - 21 August 2019

The board and staff of Australian Plays have been deeply touched and heartened by the torrent of messages we have received from our community in response to the message below which went out on the 16th of August. It has been so important in underlining for us that our services are valued and the work we do supporting Australian playwrights and their work is not only extremely important for them but also for theatre more broadly.

Some of you have made suggestions about potential ways forward and we want to reassure you that these will be collated and shared with our board and staff to consider in upcoming planning sessions. We are engaged in a battle for survival and we are open to considering a myriad of options to ensure that our services are not lost. We have a strong foundation to build on and we look forward to having open and constructive discussions with our current major funders and our partners about a viable future for our organisation. However our extremely experienced board and staff are not naïve and we know that it will be challenging to replace the core organisational funding we have received from the Australia Council for the Arts. We have really valued that investment and, we think, put it to great use so that year on year we sell more plays and subscriptions and license more productions of Australian work with this in turn directly benefitting playwrights in Australia.

It’s been great to hear from so many of you whether that has been in the public domain via social media or personally. You might want to consider also sharing your concerns about maintaining support services for Australian playwriting with the CEO and Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts or with the Minister for the Arts.

 

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts - Hon Paul Fletcher MP Paul.Fletcher.MP@aph.gov.au

CEO, Australia Council for the Arts - Adrian Collette, AM:  a.collette@australiacouncil.gov.au

 

We were really pleased that ABC Hobart reached out to interview our chair Dr Paul Dwyer earlier this week. You can listen here.

The most important thing you can do at the moment is to keep visiting our web site, buy a play, take out a subscription, read one of our essays, view one of our great interviews, explore one of our Collections. If you find something you like and value please share it on social media - please don't forget to tag us!  

 

We really do value your support. 

The Australian Plays Board

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A devastating blow for Australian playwrights


 

MEDIA RELEASE – 16 AUGUST 2019

 

Australia’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. 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.

Australian Plays is recognised as the definitive digital home of Australian playwriting, attracting thousands of readers, theatre-makers, producers and educators nationally and internationally. In just the last three years, thanks to Australian Plays, over 300 new plays have been published, 50,000 scripts read online, more than 25,000 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.

Leading playwright and Australian Plays patron David Williamson said today “I know all Australian playwrights value the essential work of this small but highly effective organisation. 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. 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. 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. We will listen carefully to their concerns and keep them updated about our discussions with other key stakeholders and our many partners” said Paul Dwyer, Chair of Australian Plays. “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.”

 

MEDIA ENQUIRIES:

Dr Paul Dwyer, Australian Plays Chair

+61 3 6223 4675

admin@australianplays.org

https://australianplays.org/about/about-us