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$100K for Australian theatre: David Williamson Prize set to become one of Australia’s richest literary awards

An Australian theatre company will receive $80,000 to commission and program a new Australian work following today’s announcement by the Australian Writers’ Guild that the 2017 David Williamson Prize will be increased to $100,000, making it one of the richest literary prizes in the country.

The remaining $20,000 will be awarded as a commission for a new work to the writer of the most outstanding theatre script at the upcoming 50th Annual AWGIE Awards.

David Williamson, celebrated Australian playwright and Emeritus President of the Australian Writers’ Guild, said that it was vital that new Australian works and voices continued to be given the financial support they needed to make it to the stage.

‘With such high calibre, exciting and diverse writing talent in Australia, it’s essential that we provide opportunities for work to not only be commissioned but also programmed and performed. That’s when our words and stories truly come alive – the moment when they first touch an audience.’

Presented since 2013, the David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Writing for Australian Theatre has been made possible by the generous donation of David and Kristin Williamson and Shane and Cathryn Brennan.

‘At its core the David Williamson Prize is about more than just recognising excellence. It is a chance to provide something truly valuable to both a playwright and a theatre company – time, funds and the opportunity to create,’ said Shane Brennan.

In 2017 the prize will be broken into two parts:

  • $20,000 to the winner of the David Williamson Prize, selected from the winners of the five AWGIE Award theatre categories of that year, as a commission for a new work.
  • $80,000 to the theatre company that commissioned and staged the David Williamson Prize-winning play, with the money awarded to that company when they commission and program a new work by an Australian playwright within the following 12 months. A portion of the prize money will be set aside for dramaturgical support.

AWG Executive Director Jacqueline Elaine said that the Prize comes at a particularly important time for Australian theatre, with the Australian Writers’ Guild’s National Voice survey revealing that in 2017 only 37% of the plays staged by the 10 largest theatre companies were new Australian works written by an Australian playwright.

‘We must continue to champion the work of our nation’s playwrights and the unique perspectives they reflect on our stages. Thanks to the generous donation of David and Kristin Williamson and Shane and Cathryn Brennan, at least two new Australian works will now be given the chance to flourish.’

The David Williamson Prize will be presented by Shane Brennan to the writer of the most outstanding winning theatre script at the 50th Annual AWGIE Awards on Friday 25 August in Sydney.

Previous recipients of the prize including Alana Valentine for Grounded (2013), Andrew Bovell for The Secret River (2014), Finegan Kruckemeyer for The Boy at the Edge of Everything (2015) and Angus Cerini for The Bleeding Tree (2016).


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