Sydney Theatre Company announces Patrick White Playwrights Award and Fellowship

by | May 22, 2024

Joanna Murray-Smith is the new Patrick White Fellow
Wendy Mocke wins Patrick White Playwrights Award for REALish

Acclaimed playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has been appointed Sydney Theatre Company’s next Patrick White Fellow – a year-long engagement that includes writing a new work for the 2025 season and mentorship of STC’s Watershed: Writers. The announcement comes as the national tour of her 2023 commission, Julia, starring Justine Clarke begins in Melbourne next month.

The recipient of this year’s Patrick White Playwrights Award is Wendy Mocke for her play, REALish, which was presented as a rehearsed reading last night at Sydney Theatre Company’s Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf.

Joanna Murray-Smith said it was a “great honour’’ to join the Fellowship’s alumni and is looking forward to working with STC’s Watershed: Writers.

“How fantastic to be back at the Sydney Theatre Company, with not just a new commission but such a prestigious award. I am honoured to join the wonderful writers on whom this Fellowship has been bestowed. Mentorship is crucial in playwriting and it’s a lovely aspect of the fellowship to be able to talk to new, younger and evolving playwrights. My experiences at STC in recent years have been amongst my most delightful in my professional career, influenced and supported by the buoyant vision of the company.”

 Upon accepting the award, Wendy Mocke said it was a “tremendous honour’’ and described her play, which she began writing in 2020, as her “love letter to Black friendships’’.

“It became clear to me that what I was writing…was what has shown up to save my life when the world has felt unbearable. If I could time travel right about now, I’d take a trip back to visit 12-year-old Wendy in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I’d tell her, so you know those silly stories you write that only you and the family dog reads? Well, one day, it will mean you’ll win the Patrick White Playwrights Award in Sydney, Australia and that’s pretty frikken cool!’’

The Patrick White Fellowship

 Joanna Murray-Smith is an award-winning playwright and novelist whose work has been translated into over two dozen languages and produced all over the world, including on the West End, Broadway and at the Royal National Theatre in London.

Now in its 14th year, the $25,000 Fellowship is awarded annually to an established playwright in recognition of their excellent body of work and achievements. As well as a commission from STC, which each Fellow develops during their year-long engagement, the tenure provides opportunities for the playwright to share their skills with other playwrights and artists including STC’s Watershed: Writers.

Previous STC Patrick White Fellows include Wesley Enoch, Angus Cerini, Andrew Bovell, Anchuli Felicia King, Tommy Murphy, Kate Mulvany, Sue Smith, Angela Betzien, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius and Raimondo Cortese.

 The Patrick White Playwrights Award

 Wendy Mocke is a Papua New Guinean actor, playwright and screenwriter who was a member of STC’s Emerging Writers Group in 2020/21.

REALish is a Blak comedy. Stella (played by Wendy) has been temporarily suspended from her job as a teacher. Over the course of the play Stella unpicks the memories of her life to try and make sense of how she got to where she is. What she discovers is that maybe she is not the continuous problem as some would suggest; it is society’s structures that prove problematic. A comedic look at the role racism plays in our society and the impact it has on First Nations people.

The Patrick White Playwrights Award has been an annual initiative of Sydney Theatre Company since 2000. It is held in honour of Patrick White’s contribution to Australian theatre and to foster the development of Australian playwrights. The Award exists to showcase an unproduced script.

The Patrick White Playwrights Award offers a cash prize of $7,500 for a full-length unproduced play of any genre written by an Australian playwright over the age of 18 years. The readers and judges assessing the scripts seek a work that is original and artistically ambitious, with great potential for a stage production. Previous winners of the Patrick White Playwrights Award include Aran Thangaratnam (2022), Kamarra Bell-Wykes (2021) Ra Chapman (2020), Keziah Warner (2019), Mark Rogers (2018), Kim Ho (2017), Lewis Treston, (2016), Anna Barnes (2012), Melissa Bubnic (2010), and Angus Cerini (2007).

In 2024, the shortlisted plays for the Patrick White Playwrights Award included:

Michelle Lim Davidson, Where We Love is Home

Kathryn Marquet, Aurochs

Tegan Ware, Cicada

Nicola Watson, Spare a Thought for Jana Wendt

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