Who is Australia's Most Promising Playwright? You Decide

Theatre for All: 7th Lysicrates Prize Who is Australia's most promising playwright You Decide

Theatre For All: Be Part of the 7th Lysicrates Prize

The annual Lysicrates Prize competition - where the audience votes for the winning playwright who receives a $15,000 commission to complete the full play - takes place tomorrow and you could be part of it and witness the birth of a new Australian classic!

The 'Theatre for All', or 'Lysicrates Prize' as it is formally named, is an annual competition that showcases some of Australia’s most exciting playwriting talent and awards the commission of that play. The 7th Lysicrates Prize will be held tomorrow, on Saturday 29th April 2023 at the Conservatorium of Music.

To compete for the Lysicrates prize, playwrights submit the first act of a new play for assessment by a team of industry readers.

Three finalists then receive rehearsal with a professional director and cast, before a staged reading is held in front of a live audience at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Just as it was in ancient Athens, where the winning plays of the Great Dionysia Festival were chosen democratically by the entire audience; at the Lysicrates Prize the audience also vote for their favourite, and thus decide on the winning playwright and recipient of a full $15,000 commission to finish their play. For the first time this year, the Lysicrates Foundation is also providing an incentive to a theatre company to produce the winning play.

Theatre for All The 7th Lysicrates Prize 2023
Choregic Monument of Lysicrates, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is a replica of the ancient Greek Lysicrates Monument erected in Athens 334BC where it was used to celebrate a win in the annual drama competition as part of the Great Dionysia Festival.

The three finalists for the 2023 Lysicrates Prize are Suvi Derkenne with 'Murder, Murder, Hair!. A Tragedy'; Joanna Erskine with 'Illumination'; and Jordan Shea with 'Malacanang/Montgomery'.
One and all are invited to see these three brilliant pieces come to life in a moved reading on Saturday 29 April. Tickets are FREE, but registration is essential, so click here to book and to secure your place.

Tickets to the 7th Lysicrates Prize are now available.

Please arrive at 1.30pm for a prompt 2pm start.
Seats are limited and allocated on a first come first served basis.
The Federal Minister for the Arts, The Hon Tony Burke MP, will present the award to the winner.

After watching the three finalist plays and voting for their favourite, all in attendance walk down to the Choregic Monument of Lysicrates in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens where there is music and the winner is announced, followed by a reception where you can meet friends old and new.

As a participant of the annual Lysicrates Prize competition where the audience votes for the winning playwright who receives a $15,000 commission to complete the full play, you could be witnessing the birth of an Australian classic!

Theatre for All The 7th Lysicrates Prize 2023
The Lysicrates Prize audience decides on the winning playwright
Theatre for All The 7th Lysicrates Prize 2023
You will be handed a voting coin as you enter the theatre which you will use to vote for the best playwright, just as was done in the days on ancient Athens.

The 2023 Lysicrates Prize Finalists

The three finalists for the 2023 Lysicrates Prize are:

Suvi Derkenne with 'Murder, Murder, Hair! A Tragedy'
Joanna Erskine with 'Illumination'
Jordan Shea with 'Malacanang/Montgomery'

Theatre for all Lysicrates Prize 2023 playwright finalists

Each finalist playwright was asked: "What was your inspiration for the play?"  Read on to learn their answers and to find out more about each play.

Joanna Erskine - Illumination

Illumination is a deeply personal work, based on my own experiences with my father who died from brain cancer – and the three months we lived from diagnosis to death. My father was an atheist and a scientist in multiple fields – the smartest, most stubborn man I have ever known. He had worked for James Hardie in his youth, and the spectre of death via mesothelioma had hung over him his entire life. He didn’t want to grow old, he wanted to burn out. And he got just that.

In 74 days I watched the smartest man I knew, lose his language. I saw a man of once superhuman strength lose the ability to walk. I saw the man who had nursed my mother in her own terminal illness just seven years earlier, require 24-hour care. I saw an atheist scientist face death head on, with no faith to comfort him. One evening in the hospital, the only word he could muster in order to get someone to turn the light on, was “illumination” – hence the title of the play. In that time all external life ceased, and we lived within that room with him.

The experience of being on the brink of life and death with another human being, is not one that is shared openly or often. We tend to keep these experiences to ourselves, taboo. With this play, I’ll invite people into this world where the outside world ceased to be. It’s going to be a play about faith (or lack of), about dignity and dying with dignity. About parenting your parent. About a life and a death, and seeing a life illuminated.

This play will be drawn from my own experience, told by new characters – namely, Arnold and his daughter Eliza, who narrates the piece (my father and my middle names) It will draw the arch of my father’s life, from his youth, romance with my mother, our childhood and later stages of his life. As each memory is lost due to illness, we see it play out before us. Memories will be punctuated by chronological storytelling of Arnold’s illness.

Theatre for All Lysicrates Prize playwright
Joanna Erskine

Jordan Shea - Malacanang/ Montgomery

I was in Naarm working on a verbatim theatre piece about Filipino community leaders, and interviewed my friend Alfredo Nicdao. Alfredo showed me a coffee table book, called Bayan Ko! which documented through extensive photography, the 1986 People Power Revolution which was the catalyst for the end of 21 years of dictatorship in the Philippines. This was something I was aware of, but I never looked too closely at.

I had for a while wanted to create something that was very much of that time. The images were stunning and quite literally leapt out at me. I had never seen this event captured so brutally and so artistically, and speaking to many of my first generation Filipinx-Australians, the knowledge of this revolution was understandably basic due to a loss of history and revisionism. We don't even learn about it in school. So, I felt the urge to write something that was born of that event.

I am very interested in how political experiences impact personal lives, which led me to create Malacanang/ Montgomery, a play split between 1986 at Malacanang Palace, and 2022 on Montgomery Street, Kogarah.

Theatre for All Lysicrates Prize playwright
Jordan Shea

Suvi Derkenne - Murder, Murder, Hair! A Tragedy

I obtained a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, Writing for Performance, from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2018, focusing on writing for radio and sound design. ‘Murder, Murder, Hair! A Tragedy’ was always just a mere concept, however when my mum forwarded the call for entries, I was motivated to put pen to paper for the first time as a playwright.

As a young person living in regional New South Wales, I have endeavoured to write a work that is approachable for both small community theatre groups and mainstage productions, combining both playfulness and sincerity in equal measure. While my writing often explores the queer, the contemporary and the bioregional, for this piece I wished to focus on a romantic comedy. Humour is uplifting, provides relief, but also allows for truth to be spoken – a sentiment I believe reflects the ethos of the Lysicrates Foundation and its mission to perpetuate the ancient Greek art of storytelling and community imagination.

At its core, ‘Murder, Murder, Hair’ is a sugary treat, full of glitter, fabulous hair, and even a murder, but ultimately, it is a heart-warming love story with a happy ending. While I hope to see my work produced on a professional stage, particularly in my hometown, I am excited and deeply grateful just for the opportunity to have my play showcased. This journey, as a remote artist, has opened doors to a community that I otherwise would not have access to, and I am thrilled that the foundation not only encourages Australian playwrights to continue honing their craft, but also provides the necessary support for new works to be platformed. And of course, thank you to my mum for sending me the entry form!

Theatre for All Lysicrates Prize playwright
Suvi Derkenne

2023 Lysicrates Prize

Book your tickets now to be part of the 2023 Lysicrates Prize.

Join us at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and have your say in the future of Australian playwriting! This event is free, but registration is essential.

Tickets to the 7th Lysicrates Prize are now available.

Should you wish to support the work of the Lysicrates Foundation a tax-deductible donation can be made via the foundation website: lysicratesfoundation.org.au or get in touch via email [email protected].

The Lysicrates Prize is a philanthropic initiative presented by The Lysicrates Foundation, produced by Hayden Tonazzi, and presented in association with The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

Read also The Lysicrates Prize: Theatre for All. From Athens, 334 B.C. to Sydney, 2020 A.D.