The AWG Congratulates Black Swan on the Revised Richard Burton Award

9 May, 2012


For the past two years, Sally Burton and the Black Swan State Theatre Company have offered the national Richard Burton Award for Playwriting, with $30,000 in prizes for new plays.  This is one of the richest theatre prizes in the country, thanks to the generosity of Sally Burton, who funds the award in celebration of the illustrious career of her late husband. 
The prize was not awarded in 2011, with the funds going to playwright development. Sally Burton and Black Swan reviewed the guidelines, developed a new model and sought the input of the AWG Western Australia Branch.
Alan Payne, Manager of the WA Branch, described our position. “Black Swan is a strong supporter of new Australian work and invests some funds in playwright commissions.  While we appreciated Sally Burton’s generosity, the AWG believes that money spent on commissions, rather than prizes, is a better way to engage with playwrights and invest in the industry.  It is a problem around the country that so few commissions are available.”
The WA Branch argued for revising the model of a two-year eligibility window for produced work to three years, which is a more realistic time frame for working playwrights.
Black Swan has announced that the Richard Burton Award will comprise two $15,000 commissions, open to playwrights who have been produced within the previous three years.
On behalf of the AWG Playwrights Committee, Andrew Bovell congratulated those involved.  “Sally Burton is obviously someone who loves Australian Theatre and in Black Swan she has found the perfect partner. We'd like to congratulate them both for their continued commitment to the development of new Australian writing. The newly structured Richard Burton Award is an exciting and generous initiative. It now reflects the Australian Writers’ Guild belief that the best way to support and engage Australian playwrights is by commissioning and producing their work. We'd like to acknowledge Alan Payne and the WA Committee for successfully negotiating with Black Swan and Sally Burton an improvement of the new guidelines of the Award.”
Richard Burton Award applications open on 28 May and close on 6 July. If you are interested in more details and how to apply, please visit the Black Swan website at

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