Queensland Theatre has made major contributions to the Australian arts including 31 new Australian plays, creating employment for 220 actors, writers and directors, while fostering audiences of more than 34,500 to engage with new theatre works. Since 2002, the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award (QPDA) has played a pivotal role in this cultivation of the arts awarding the recipient a full production in the Queensland Theatre program whom they are partnered with.
The finalists were selected from a panel of judges demonstrating the calibre of entries this year who are all local to Brisbane:
Anna Loren: an actor and theatre maker, she’s one of eight emerging playwrights, chosen to participate in Playlab’s 2019, Incubator Program and, was recently supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund, to attend a residency in Finland, under the mentorship of theatre professional, Dr. Margi Brown Ash. Anna studied at The Actors Workshop (Brisbane), and later at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance (London), supported by an international bursary. Also a drama facilitator, Anna has taught for The Actors Workshop and NIDA Open (Brisbane), as well as The Rose Bruford Youth Theatre, NCS The Challenge and the Drama Club (London).
Her entry Comfort: a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. Sitting between British-Indian colonial rule and Japanese occupation, Burma is a country torn apart by war. It has been cut open, segmented, dissected and blown apart. Battling armies open lasting wounds across the land, leaving scars not only on the earth, but also on the bodies of the women they seek to colonize. COMFORT is a semi-autobiographical work that responding to the whispers that my own grandmother may have been a ‘Comfort Woman’ in 1940s Japan-Occupied Burma. In blaring juxtaposition, my memories of her exist in a 1980s Australian childhood. Afternoons spent in a suburban Perth backyard, playing around the hills hoist; holidays sweating in a musty, sand-filled caravan; Expo ’88. But just below the surface, one ever-present unspoken rule journeyed with us; we don’t talk about the past. Moving between past and present, personal and political, GRANDDAUGHTER wades through official military records, rumour and euphemism as she gently unpicks the threads in search of her GRANDMOTHER’s truth.
Maddie Nixon: is a Brisbane based writer, director and youth arts practitioner. Her artistic practice focuses on the development of new contemporary work, Australian comedy and theatre for young people. Maddie is the Youth and Participation Producer at La Boite Theatre Company. Credits include, as Playwright: The Parable People (Alpha Processing – Playlab), Cooladdi (HWY Festival – La Boite Theatre Company, 18-26 Year Old Playwright Program – Queensland Theatre and Fresh Ink – ATYP), Food Fight (Fresh Ink – ATYP).
Her entry, Binnavale: Perhaps an overlooed town, one of the smallest in Australia, Binnavale was once a bustling hub in the orange desert of central Queensland. The story centres on the now isolated and solely occupied inhabitants, the Mullers family. Mum, Dad, Levi and Sam, run the town’s crown jewel and only remaining business, The Bin Hotel. Business at The Bin isn’t exactly booming, but it’s going well enough, and the Mullers honestly believe that that they are the gate holders of the greatest place on Earth. That is until the young hotshot Federal MP Mr Brett Pryce, proposes the Postcode Hybridisation Scheme, a bill which if passed will conjoin a series of small population postcodes in remote and regional Australia. If the Mullers lose their postcode, they lose their smallest town status, and they lose their business. If the family don’t have tourists passing through, The Bin Hotel will be shut down, and they will have to abandon the only place they’ve ever called home. Binnavale is a comedy about family, grief and growing up.
Steve Pirie: a writer, theatre maker and youth arts worker currently based in Brisbane. A graduate of the University of Southern Queensland, he is also the co-Artistic Director of Mixtape Theatre Collective, a regional independent theatre company based in Toowoomba, Queensland. His first play, Escape from the Breakup Forest, has since been published by Playlab following statewide seasons, and in 2014, Steve’s work 3 O’Clock, Flagpole was selected for development as part of the Lab Rats initiative. In 2017, he was an independent artist with Queensland Theatre where he developed his work, Return to the Dirt as part of his residency, which was presented at La Boite’s HWY Festival in 2018.
His entry, Return to the Dirt: In 2014, Steve Pirie returned to his hometown in regional Queensland with no job, money or goals. After a series of dead ends, he finally found work in a local funeral home, where he spent the next year living and working among the dead, the dying and the families left behind. Join Steve, your tour guide, as he takes you through the realms of the dead and behind the closed doors of the Australian funeral industry in this powerful meditation on what it means to die in the 21st century, to lose the ones we love, what a twenty-something learned about what awaits us at the end, and what a final act of love can do for our healing. Return to the Dirt is a celebration of finding your place in the world, the power of personal redemption and humility at the end of all things. Most importantly, it is a stepping stone to one of the most important conversations you need to have.
“This award helps us to create the next landmark Australian story, to identify the most distinctive new artists, and to provide pathways for their work and careers,” said Queensland Theatre Artistic Director, Sam Strong. “This was an intensely competitive round, with a record number of entries from around Australia, and an incredibly impressive long-list that was a snapshot of a very healthy new writing culture. I’m especially pleased that the three plays that rose to the top were all by Queensland artists, and two of them have a regional setting,” he said. “The plays vary widely in their style, tone and the experience they want to create for an audience. But they are united by a kernel of personal experience that sits at the heart of each of them. This gives all three plays a unique authenticity and power. I’m sure incoming Artistic Director Lee Lewis will enjoy the wealth of talent contained in the shortlist and in Queensland as a whole.”