Monday, February 13, 2017

The 2017 Lysicrates Prize for playwriting

This is the third year of The Lysicrates Prize for playwriting. Two philanthropists, husband and wife. John and Patricia Azarias, founded The Lysicrates Foundation "with the aims to encourage and promote Australian creativity, particularly in playwriting; to help restore the beautiful Lyscicrates Monument in Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden; and to foster an appreciation of both Australian history and our living heritage from classical Greece. ..."

To this end the Griffin Theatre has been 'recruited' to assist in the organisation of the playwriting objective. An invitation was sent out to established writers to submit a first act of a play that was in process to a panel at the theatre. This year from some 20 submissions, three writers were selected. A Director and Actors, over a three day rehearsal period, prepared a 'staged ' reading for an invited audience. Following the democratic tradition of ancient Greece, the audience were invited, by placing a token in a 'jar', to vote for the Best one.

This year's Playwrights and Plays were:

Jennifer Compton: THE GOOSE IN THE BOTTLE. Director, Gale Edwards with actors: Belinda Giblin, Celia Ireland, Claire Lovering and Kate Skinner.

Nick Coyle: FEATHER IN THE WEB. Director, Ben Winspear. Actors: Tina Bursill, Linda Cropper, Gareth Davies, Nikki Shields.

Melissa Bubnic: GHOSTING THE PARTY. Director, Kim Hardwick. Actors: Lynette Curran, Amanda Muggleton, Shari Sebbens.

The winner was Ms Bubnic's play, GHOSTING THE PARTY. It has an 86 year old, her daughter and her granddaughter. It focuses on Grandma's preparation for death as she looks back over life. It is funny, beautifully observed and political - euthanasia is part of the very funny chat! These basic qualities that many an Australian play could use. I, too, liked it best! One hopes that the play, if finished, sees the light of day. Maybe, even at the Griffin, one of the hosts of this event. None of the past winners - Steve Rogers (2015), Mary Rachel Brown (2016) - declared by this 'democratic' vote have been produced at the Griffin, though a runner-up, Justin Fleming's THE LITERATI, through some 'Republican' order, I suppose, found its way to the light - so there goes the popular voice of the people, I guess.

Mr Coyle's play was intriguing, a series of scenes of interaction between a young woman and the rest of the world. While Ms Compton's work didn't have any thing of much interest going on that could capture our attention undividely - it felt 'old fashioned' in form and pre-occupation.

It was a gentle afternoon and it was good to be in air conditioning in the Verbrugghen Hall, at the Conservatorium of Music - it had been 42 degrees and humid outside. The theatre had a smattering of the general public but seemed to me to be buzzing with Federal and State politicians - none of the present Arts Ministers it was noted were there (Mr Harwin distracted with Energy business that afternoon) - some of them giving a 'speech' beforehand, and lots of lawyers and 'glamourati' all over the place - lots of suits and ties and well heeled others. I wondered how many thought of any practical ways to support the ailing and financially 'slashed' arts in this country while 'huffing' and 'puffing' about the Art's importance both, historically and contemporaneously, and the 'joy' in participating in this gathering. I was a little agitated by the self-congratulation in the atmosphere of the room. (Read my blog on THE TESTAMENT OF MARY to see why).

Still, the playwriting Lyysicrates Prize is a good thing, and it, at least, exists, and is a sign that someone cares. Mr and Mrs Azarias, the Arts community thanks you, especially the writers.

The Foundation's other objective to restore the replica of the Lysicrates Monument in the Botanic Gardens was achieved last October.

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