Playwright and founding member of independent theatre company Real TV Angela Betzien has been announced as the winner of Sydney Theatre Company’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellowship.
The Fellowship is a position for an established writer, including a commission from STC to be developed over the course of the year, and a $25,000 prize.
“It’s incredibly validating,” Betzien told Daily Review. “Early on in my career, as a young playwright, I was really nourished by these residencies and fellowships, more than anything; more than money. It’s an opportunity to engage with a theatre company and feel part of a collective committed to the nuts and bolts of making theatre.
“It’s an opportunity to have a space at the company. There’s a desk and a place that I can work. As a mid-career, established playwright now, I’m looking forward to having conversations about plays, criticism and process with members of the company.”
Belvoir’s production of Betzien’s play The Dark Room won the 2011 Sydney Theatre Award for Best New Australian Work, and was nominated for several other awards. Her 2003 play Children of the Black Skirt toured Australian schools for three years, and then internationally to Italy and Austria.
Much of Betzien’s work is directed at younger audiences, and her company Real TV creates challenging work for those audiences.
“It’s a really exciting time for theatre for young people at the moment,” she said. “Major theatre companies, STC, MTC, Malthouse and Griffin, are all embracing work for families and recognising that the work is very high quality and a way of getting younger people into their companies.”
STC also awards the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, which has this year gone to Chris Summers, who wins a $7,500 prize for his play King Artur. The play was given a rehearsed reading before an audience tonight as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
King Artur follows a retired film maker who, looking for one last adventure, decides to direct a sequel to a cult film he made in his youth.
STC artistic director Andrew Upton said, of the play: “Full of colour, texture, humour and tragedy, King Artur asks intelligent questions about art; why we make it and who for. It is an enormously entertaining work that skilfully integrates cinematic elements into a theatrical form.”
King Artur was selected from 119 unproduced plays, which were submitted anonymously to the judges.
The Patrick White Playwrights’ Award is held in honour of Patrick White’s contribution to Australian theatre, and has been awarded by Sydney Theatre Company since 2000. The Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellowship has been awarded since 2010, with past recipients Raimondo Cortese, Patricia Cornelius and Hilary Bell.
Angela Bietzen, playwright and Andrew Upton, STC Artistic Director (Back, L-R)
Chris Summers, playwright and Polly Rowe, STC Literary Manager (Front, L-R)