Tuesday, April 18, 2023

French Physical Theatre of the 20th and 21st Century - Copeau, Dullin, Artaud, Barrault, Lecoq, Gaulier and Pagneux

French Physical Theatre of the 20th and 21st Century - Copeau, Dullin, Artaud, Barrault, Lecoq, Marceau, Gaulier and Pagneux

French Physical Theatre is a style of training, exploration and performance that concentrates on movement as the central form of communication, character and storytelling. It incorporates forms and techniques such as mime, mask work, gesture, movement and dance to train actors, create explorations and performances. While its origins can be seen in theatre forms such as the Commedia dell'arte, Asian forms of theatre and the work of early Absurdist like Alfred Jarry, many see the originator of modern French Physical Theatre as coming from Antonin Artaud and his ideas of the Theatre of Cruelty. Yet modern French Physical Theatre can be seen to start much earlier with the work of Jacques Copeau and Charles Dullin as actors, directors and trainers.

Jacques Copeau (1879 - 1949) 

Jacques Copeau was French theatre director, actor, trainer and dramatist. He was born in Paris in 1879. Due to family problems, he finished his formal education at the Sorbonne in 1901. After a short stint in Copenhagen, he returned to France and co-founded the influential arts magazine Nouvelle Revue Francaise in 1909. In 1913, he founded the revolutionary Theatre du Vieux-Colombier which put artistic merit above all commercial concerns. The small theatre (500 seater and then eventually reduced to 360 capacity) emphasized the ensemble above the individual. The ensemble often rehearsed in his home. He emphasized physicality in rehearsals. The company put on a number of productions but WWI cur short their work. Around this time, Copeau sojourned with the designer/director Edward Gordon Craig and met the eurythmic master Dalcroze and designer Appia and started to develop ideas for three dimensional performance enhanced by mise en scene and lighting elements.

In 1917, Copeau lectured in the United States and brought some of his company across performing The Tricks of Scapin in which he featured. The use of treteau nu (the naked platform) where actors leapt on and off in slapstick antics became a standard feature in this and later performance work of Copeau. When he with his ensemble returned to Paris in 1919, they started a rigorous training and performance schedule that involved rotating up to three productions a week. They used the designs of Jouvet which added to the treteau nu creating levels and steps which helped Copeau's new physical theatre which emphasized character over situation and plot. Together they worked on trying to emotional essence of scenes where a sense of place was suggested. Levels of platforms and staging were used. He believed in simplifying sets and settings to allow greater realism and flexibility in acting. A large number and range of productions were performed. However, the grueling schedule took its toll of Copeau and his company. 

In 1924, Copeau and his company withdrew to a farmhouse in Burgundy. In Burgundy, Copeau started to refine his training techniques, many of which are still the cornerstone of modern actor training programs. Mask work and improvisation became important to his training approaches. As the ensemble reduced in numbers, only a core of six people remained including his son Pascal, his nephew Michel Saint-Denis and actress Suzanne Bing. Commedia physicality and group movement became a trademark of the style developed. In 1927, Copeau left the company and Michel Saint-Denis took over.  Copeau started to direct plays internationally always aiming for a physical and clean form of theatre emphasizing lyrical rhythmic perfection which was non-illusionistic in its aesthetics. His productions were considered choreographic, balletic and organic. He pre-planned movements, timings and pauses which he unified with his love of improvisation in rehearsal. He was prolific as a reader and also amazing at learning and reciting text and often at early he would recite the entirety of the play to his actors. He believed that the best work came from actors when they worked halfway between total freedom and coercion. This led to the acting in his productions being described as ensemble-based presentational realism.

In 1933, Copeau mounted a production of The Mystery of Saint Uliva in the Santa Croce church in Florence. This was followed in 1935 with an outdoor performance of Savonarola in the central square in Florence. In Paris, from 1936 until 1939, he directed Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night,  Moliere's Le Misanthrope and Racine's Bajazet. Unable to follow the orders of the Germans in Paris, he resigned from his position as Provisionary Administrator of the Comedie-Francaise due to his continual disobeying of German occupier instructions and commands and retired at his home in Pernand-Vergelesses where he died in 1949.

Charles Dullin

Charles Dullin was a French actor, theatre and film director, theatre trainer and manager who did much to further exploration and performance of movement based theatre. Born in 1885 in Yenne in present day France, by the age of 20, he had started as a full time actor performing mostly in melodrama. By 1908, he and fellow actor Saturni Fabre had started their own company staging melodramas and formalist style dramas including the early play works of Alexandre Arnoux. 

After moving to Paris, Dullin joined Copeau's company in 1913 for a short while before committing to Copeau's company more formally in 1917. As a soldier in WWI, he started to use his pantomime and mime skills and his interest in Japanese Kabuki theatre to perform to his fellow troupes. He saw these as essential representations of human nature even in the most dire of circumstances. By 1920, he was training actors at the Theatre Antoine and by 1921 he had developed ideas for a laboratory theatre and commune which he called Theatre de lÁtelier which he established outside Paris in Neronville. He trained and explored with actors for 10-12 hours a day to create a theatre based on common sharing of life and work. Some of the actors in this original troupe included Antonin Artaud and Marguerite Jamois. He later moved his troupe to the Theatre Montmartre in suburban Paris which had been the 'first purpose built theatre in suburban Paris when it was established in 1822.  

Dullin's by 1922 included mime and mirroring exercises, improvisation and vocal exercises exploring 'Voix de Soi-Meme' (the voice of oneself) and 'La Voix du Monde' (the voice of the world). He saw that actors must "see before describing, hear before answering... and feel before trying to express themselves". His use of soundscape movement exercises involving live and recorded sounds were described by many students. Also pivotal to this work was the use of mask work from neutral masks to commedia masks to Noh theatre masks. Two of his most famous students from this period in the 1920s were the actor/theatre theorist Antonin Artaud and the actress Jany Holt (aka Ruxandra Ecaterina Vlădescu). It is interesting to note that Dullin used some Asian performance techniques and masks during the 1920s but he did not see his first performance of Asian theatre until in 1930 he saw Tsutsui Tokujiro's troupe perform in Paris in 1930. This performance was a shinpa style which combined kabuki style theatre with Japanese melodrama and swordplay. 

By the 1930s, Dullin's work had moved more into training actors and acting in films. He used his wonderfully physical and symbolic acting techniques to perform in films such as Les Miserables (1934) and Streets of Shadows (1937). His attempts to create a non-Naturalistic theatre and his creation of anti-war productions, meant that he found it difficult to continue his work during World War Two. After, the war, he continued to train actors and perform in films such as Les jeux sont faits ('The Chips are Down') (1947). He died in 1949 in Southern France while touring as an actor. His legacy and training techniques are kept alive through the Academie Charles-Dullin.

Antonin Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty

Artaud was born in Marseille in 1896. At the age of 18, he was admitted to a sanitoria. In 1916, he was conscripted into the French army. He was discharged from the army due to sleepwalking and was put back under psychiatric care. He eventually moved to Paris in 1921 and began some training with the symbolist poet and director Lugne-Poe. After a short holiday in Marseille, he joined Dullin's troupe and trained under Dullin in physical theatre techniques. Besides training with Dullin, he also developed over 11 roles for Dullin productions. 

During his eighteen months with Dullin's company, Artaud started to develop the beginnings of his theories for the Theatre of Cruelty. The physical work in Dullin's company helped Artaud to believe that gesture and movement were more powerful as a performance tool than text. He saw the function of lights, sound and set not as merely decorative and aesthetic elements but as tools for sensory disruption. He saw the audience as central to the performance. Around this time he started to describe theatre as an act of 'organised anarchy'. Like Dullin, he was strongly influenced by Eastern philosophy and performance. Whereas Dullin thought believed in a theatre of transposing or translating Eastern performance techniques to Western theatre because he did not "... impose on our Western theatre rules of a theatre of a long tradition which has its own symbolic language...", Artaud saw the adoption of Eastern symbolic gesture and movement as crucial to the survival of Western theatre. By 1923, he was writing poems and essays that became the basis for his work The Theatre and its Double.

During the late 1920s, Artaud started to work in films as an actor and writer and to start to work with the surrealist movement. His most notable acting roles were as Jean-Paul Marat in Gance's Napoleon (1927) and as a monk called Massieu in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). Ten of the over thirty screenplays he wrote survive including one of the few which was produced which was the 1928 Dulac directed surrealist film The Seashell and the Clergyman. 


Barber, S. 1993. Antonin Artaud: Blows and Bombs. Faber and Faber: London.

Copeau, J. 1991. Copeau: texts on Theatre. Edited and translated by John Rudlin & Norman H. Paul. Routledge: New York.

Esslin, M. 1976. Antonin Artaud. John Calder: London.

Leiter, S. 1994. The Great Stage Directors. Facts on File: New York.

Rudlin, J. 1986. Jacques Copeau. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Killing Dead White Men - Conference Paper - Drama Victoria

Killing Dead White Men
Dr. Mark Eckersley

(Workshop and Paper delivered at 2019 Drama Victoria State Conference
‘Unity: Exploring diversity and inclusion in drama education’
Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, December 2019)

Tanderrum - Acknowledgement of Country

I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and the peoples of the Kulin Nation who are the Traditional Custodians of this Land. I would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians peoples present.
In the spirit of diversity and unity under which this conference is titled, I would like to acknowledge the individual groups who are and were caretakers to this land on which we stand. When Europeans first colonised this land we stand on, it was occupied and cared for by five language groups often known as the Kulin (Koolin) nation of peoples these are:
·       Woiwurrung (Woy-wur-rung) - The Wurundjeri People
·       Boonerwrung (Bun-er-rong) - The Boonerwrung People
·       Wathaurong (Wath-er-rong) - The Wathaurong People
·       Taungerong (Tung-ger-rong) - The Taungerong People
·       Dja Dja Wrung (Jar-Jar wrung) - The Jaara People

In the spirit of the 'Uluru Statement of the Heart', I hope I can in this workshop give ‘Voice’ to those who have been silenced, reveal ‘Truth’ where it has been concealed and endorse ‘Treaty’ as we move forward to understanding and justice.

What is wrong with the picture?
Women make up approximately 49.6% of the world’s population (Ritchie & Roser 2019). 5% of the world’s population is Indigenous (World Bank 2019)

What's the picture and the truth in Theatre and Drama
Worldwide – Female Directors 17%, Female Playwrights 21%, Actresses 40%, Female Managers/Producers/Artistic Director 5%, Female Audience 56% estimated Indigenous Combined 1% (European Theatre Convention 2015 & Lock 2018)
England – Female Artistic Directors 13% (2018), Playwrights 35%, Actresses 38%, Female Audiences 68%, Indigenous figures not available (Pascal 2018 & Freestone 2012)
2012 – Female Directors 16%, Female Playwrights 14% (Lally 2012)
A program was undertaken by state governments and federal government bodies in Australia to address this inequality in Australia. By 2019, the picture had changed significantly.
2019 – Female Directors 58%, Female Playwrights 47%, Female Actors 52%, Female Managers/Producers 12%, Female Audiences - 52% Victoria – Overall Cultural market & Indigenous Australian Combined 5% (Howard 2019 & Arts Victoria 2014)
Within education, we think of ourselves as progressive but often we reinforce gender inequality and stereotypes. Here are some Australian statistics from Victoria on examination level programs.
VCE Theatre Studies & Drama Lists and productions -2001-2019 (VCAA 2019)
184 plays and productions – Female Directors, 29%, Female Playwrights 30% av., Indigenous 4%

Conclusion - Women are disproportionately underrepresented and Indigenous peoples are culturally underrepresented in theatre and educational theatre endeavours both in Australia and overseas. One way to address this is for us as educators to monitor and use self-imposed quotas to consciously address these gender and cultural inequities.

Voice & Treaty

u  Dramaturgy seemed motherless for quite some time: born into a family, the theatre, in which women initially had no role except as narrowly drawn characters performed by men, for men, in plays written by men, expressing male values before an audience that was not exclusively male. Yet drama has always has a mother, it just has chosen to forget its family and its mother.
u  Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara peoples use Awelye – body painting of symbols in preparation for storytelling, ritual and performance. Below is the symbol for ‘Women’:

u  Create a circle. Sand and stones are used to create the space for exploration & performance

Know my Name, Say my Name
As an exercise 10 pictures or photographs of male and female playwrights and performance makers were shown to the participants made up of drama teachers and lecturers in drama. Of the five males shown a recognition rate of 85% was evident. Of the females shown, the recognition rate was 5%. The issue of how to value and recognize females in theatre was discussed.

Creating a New Dreamtime – recognizing the people in our lives
Activity - The New Dreamtime – Giving Voice
u  Look at all the people in the circle slowly. Think that they have stories and backgrounds which are rich and you don't know about. Now turn your attention inward.
u  Think of a woman who was important to making who your are.
u  Give a special label to mythologize them. Mythologize this woman.
u  Now think of a way you could tell the story of this woman to the group.
u  Example: "Mother, the Spirit Weaver. She was a magician. She gathered a group of young people and gathered their energy and spirits and had them dance and move and tell their stories and then she threw their dreams into a space and the images, stories and dreams would come to life. My Mother, the Spirit Weaver."

Workshopping the Work of Women
The workshop then comprised exploring and workshopping speeches and scenes from different female writers whose work was performed over many years and many continents. Here are some of the writers covered:
Enheduanna (Sumerian) 2285 BC – 2250 BC (Ritual Theatre):

“Beloved of Enlil - You made it (the storm) blow over the land,
You carried out the instructions of An.
My Queen, the foreign lands cower at Your cry,
In dread (and) fear of the South Wind…”

Sappho (Greek) Sa-ppho 630 BC – 570 BC Lyrical Theatre:

“Stars near the lovely moon
cover their own bright faces 
when she is roundest
and lights earth with her silver.”

Okuni (Japan) O-kuni 1572 – 1613 AD Mother of Kabuki Theatre:

The movements of kabuki are lively, energetic and vertical movements, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. Get in groups of two or three
Using either an extract from Okuni’ plays or the haikus of the female poet Chiyo-ni, create a performance where either you all do a line each or one person or two speak the words and one or two people do actions using a fan. Remember to punctuate each line or image with a mie (a dramatic pose).
u  Text 1 – Okuni
“She prays for her daughter’s repose in the other world.
She keeps back her tears.
The toll of the evening bell comes from within.”
u  Text 2 - Chiyo-ni (Female Haiku poet)
The beauty
Of hidden things

Aphra Behn  (English) 1640-1689 – Restoration Theatre:

Extracts from her play The Rover (1677)
Valeria: Am I put into the number of lovers?
Helena: You? Why coz, I know thou’rt too good natured to leave us in design…And if you are not a lover, it is an art soon learnt.
Florinda: I wonder how you learnt to love so easily… Thou art too rash to give a heart at first sight.
Helena: Hang your considering lover… I shall have my beauty praised, my wit admired – though little or none – and have the vanity and power to know I am desirable.
Discussion Questions
What are the stylistic elements evident in Aphra Behn’s text?

Elizabeth Robins (USA) 1862-1952 - Naturalism, Expressionism, Epic Theatre styles

Votes for Women (1907)
Ms E. B.: Bills or resolutions have been before the House for the last 36 years. That, roughly is our history. We found ourselves before the close of year 1905 with no assurance that if we went on in the same way, that any girl born into the world in this generation would live to exercise the rights of citizenship, though she lived to be a hundred.
Discussion Questions
What elements of didactic drama are evident in Elizabeth Robins’ work?

Jane Harrison (Australian Indigenous) b. 1960 – Realism & Documentary Drama

Stolen (2003)
ACTIVITY- Abuse in Foster Homes Read the following text on Page 8.  Have the group read the Children as a group character. Have one student play Ruby.
CHILDREN: What did he give to ya?
RUBY: Gave me a doll.
CHILDREN: (They clap) He gave her a doll. What else did ya do? (They stop clapping).
RUBY: I promised not to tell. JIMMY: Oh, Ruby!
  1. Write a passage on the internal conflict going on within Ruby in this scene.
  2. Write and share how you would stage this section of the play to highlight Ruby’s tumultuous inner life.
  3. Write a page discussing the importance of this play to a contemporary audience.

Mary Zimmerman (USA) – b. 1960 – Classical, Eclectic style

Arabian Nights (1994)
The group enacts two group scenes for the lines below. Group tableaux can be used to create the scenes. Dance or movement with freezing done in a musical chairs style can be used to create the scenes. The dialogue can happen when the action is frozen.
Scheherazade: My father, why do you look so sad? Know father that as the poet says, “You who are sad, oh be comforted, for nothing endures, and just as every joy vanishes, so also vanishes every sorrow.”
AND Near the end of the play
Scheherazade: I know the hour is late, O auspicious king, but I have one more story, just one more very subtle tale to tell. Let it be one thousand nights and one night, before you grow weary of me.

u  The first step to privileging Feminist and Indigenous drama is to know and use female writers, directors, theorists, theatre companies and the Indigenous writers, directors, theorists, theatre companies
u  One way for teachers to address the gender and cultural imbalance is to educate themselves on the diversity out there
u  Another way is for teachers to self-impose quotas – i.e. 50% of the plays I read, do and see with students should be by females, 10% of the plays I read, do and see with students should be by Indigenous writers and groups
u  Teachers should educate themselves on the theories, practitioners and styles developed by female and indigenous individuals and groups (I have included some texts and websites in the bibliography to start with.
A final word or two: “You make beauty and it disappears, I love that.” Caryl Churchill (Far Away)

Arts Victoria. April 2014. Audience Atlas Victoria. Arts Victoria, State Government of Victoria: Melbourne. Retrieved from
European Theatre Convention. 2015. Audiences for European Theatre. Imprint Publications: London. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/europeantheatreconvention/docs/etc_study_european_theatre_audience
Eckersley, M. 2019. Killing Dead White Men – The History of female Theatre and Theatre Makers. [Blog] Retrieved from https://markeckersleywomenstheatre.blogspot.com/2019/09/killing-dead-white-men-female.html
Eckersley, M. 2014. Australian Indigenous Drama. [Book & Blog] Retrieved from https://australianindigenousdrama.blogspot.com/2014/03/australian-indigenous-drama-introduction.html
Freestone, E. Dec. 10 2012. ‘Women in Theatre’. The Guardian. The Guardian: London. Retrieved from
Howard, J. April 13, 2019. How Australian Theatre Fixed its Gender Imbalance in a Decade. Retrieved from
Keyssar, H. 1990. Feminist Theatre. Palgrave Macmillan: London.
Lally, E. 2012. Women in Theatre – A Research Report and Action Plan for the Australia Council for the Arts. Australia Council: Surry Hills, NSW. April 2012. Retrieved from https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/workspace/uploads/files/research/women-in-theatre-april-2012-54325827577ea.pdf
Lionheart Theatre. January 28, 2016. Five Female Playwrights to Remember. Retrieved from https://lionhearttheatre.org/5-female-playwrights-to-remember__trashed/
Lock, S. August 27, 2015. Theater and Broadway in the U.S. – Statistics and Facts. Statista: New York. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/topics/1299/theatre-and-broadway/
Nolan, Y. 2015. Medicine Shows – Indigenous Performance Culture. Playwrights Canada Press: Toronto.
Pascal, J. April 24, 2018. ‘Woman are being excluded from the Stage: Its Time for Quotas’. The Guardian. The Guardian: London. Retrieved from
Ritchie, H. & Roser, M. 2019. Gender Ratio. Our World in Data: Oxford, UK. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/gender-ratio
VCAA. 2019. VCE Drama Examination Past Papers. VCAA: Melbourne. Retrieved from https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/past-examinations/Pages/Drama.aspx
VCAA. 2019. VCE Theatre Studies Past Papers. VCAA: Melbourne. Retrieved from https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/past-examinations/Pages/Theatre-Studies.aspx
World Bank. 2019. Indigenous Peoples. World Bank. Retrieved from
Women’s Museum of California. (2017). Get Thee to a Stage – A Brief History of Women in the Theater. Women’s Museum of California: San Diego, CA. Retrieved from

Saturday, May 4, 2019

South America - Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century

South America – Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century

Salvadora Medina Onrubia 

Salvadora Medina Onrubia was an Argentine playwright, poet, narrator, feminist and storyteller who was born in 1894 in La Plata in Argentina and died in 1972 in Buenos Aires. From the young age of 15, Onrubia embraced anarchist and feminist principles and she was a follower of Russian anarchist Simon Radowitzky. Much of her life and her writings were highly political and she was a regular contributor to La Nacion, El Hogar, Critica and Faces and Masks. She was arrested and imprisoned for many of her publications.

Onrubia’s dramatic writings were mostly written for children’s and youth theatre. Her work is often characterized as Thesis Drama since it uses debate and didactic techniques to further plot through argument. Her female characters both conform with and contrast tradition representations of females. Her 1914 play Almafuerte (‘Strong Soul’), explores life in the Buenos Aires’ slums and the way that females can both accept and question the roles society and circumstances designate them. Public health and the political aspects of everyday life are strong themes in her work. Although she only published a small number of plays, her work is significant in its style, content and form.

Claudia Piñeiro

Born in 1960 Claudia Piñeiro, is an Argentine playwright, novelist, crime write and screenwriter. She initially worked as an accountant before taking to writing. One of her first plays in 2004 was How much a refrigerator is worth. This piece examines domestic life and the stories that lie beneath domestic life. This was followed soon after by The Same Green Tree in 2006. Her later work has been described as dark and absurd in its humour and portrayal of the human condition. These works include Verona (2007), Morite, Fat (2008) and Three Old Pens (2009). As her popularity grew as a crime writer, Piñeiro has written very little work for the theatre. 

Ana Maria Gonçalves

Born in Ibiá, Minas Gerais in Brazil in 1970, Goncalves is a Brazilian playwright and screenwriter who has worked in Brazil and the United States of America. Her plays explore what it is like to live as a black woman in modern day societies like Brazil where racial and gender prejudice are prominent.

Her first dramas were written in 2001 and are the verse dramas Beside You - On the Edge of What You Feel for Me and A Defect of Colour. After working as a lecturer in race relations and also as a writer in residence at Tulane, Stanford and Middlebury, she returned to São Paulo in Brazil and in 2016 she wrote her most famous play Diverse. The play explores the relationship of a couple João and Márcia and their efforts to stray away from the prejudices of a racist and sexist society. Fortified by João (a black 28 year old), Márcia, a 40 years old and of mixed race, slowly begins to examine and reclaim her black roots. João must re-examine himself and whether he can cope with and not be intimidated by Márcia’s new sense of purpose and identity.

Goncalves’ plays and writings have been performed and published in many languages and many countries including Brazil, Portugal, the United States of America and Italy.

Cidinha da Silva 

Cidinha da Silva is the playwright and novelist from Brazil. Her play "Got pregnant, gave birth to horses and learned how to fly without wings" is a strong magic realism and surrealist drama revealing the daily routine of six black women who live in the same apartment building. They have no interaction nor do they know each other, however, their similar yearnings reveal the private truth of buried affections.

Cidinha is a prose writer and playwright from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. Author of 11 books, she chronicles the lives of adults and writes short stories and romance for children and adolescents. She organized two fundamental works on contemporary race relations in Brazil: Affirmative actions in education: Brazilian experiences (2003) (Ações afirmativas em educação: experiências brasileiras) and African racial relations: inputs for public policies of books, reading, literature and libraries in Brazil (2014) (Africanidades e relações raciais: insumos para políticas públicas na área do livro, leitura, literatura e bibliotecas no Brasil).

Marcia Zanelatto

Marcia Zanelatto is a Brazilian playwright and screenplay writer. Her most famous play is The Body’s Night. The plot of the play follows Clara and Isabel who are beautiful, young, talented, and in love. But the meaning of life is questioned when one of them is diagnosed with a degenerative disease. With the support of the doctor and friend, Paula, Isabel deals with the reality, finding new limitations of power and courage that she never thought she would have.

Zanelatto lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, where she writes for theatre, television and cinema, and teaches script writing. Her work often engages with ideas of racism, public security, and sexual and gender identity. She has received several awards, including the Brazil at Scene Award 2009 (Prêmio Brasil em Cena) for the play Time of Solitude (Tempo de Solidão), the Favelas Award from the Ford Foundation for the play They ain’t Got No (Eles não usam tênis naique); and the 2014 Theatre Producers Association of Rio de Janeiro Award (Prêmio APTR) for Best Author, with the play Frumpiness (Desalinho). In 2016, the Royal Exchange Theater, Manchester, UK, commissioned a new work for the Birth Festival, which resulted in her play The Birth Machine. Her work has been translated into English, Spanish, French and Swedish.

Ana Paula Arendt 

Ana Paula Arendt is a Brazilian playwright, screenplay writer, diplomat, poet and children’s book author who was born in 1980. She often writes under the pseudonym of R. P. Alencar. Her most famous play is the much awarded The Constituent which is a verse drama. 
Arendt was born in Rondonia in Brazil. She spent a significant part of her life living in Rio Branco where she lived with and was heavily influenced by the Indigenous Kaxarari tribes and clans. She eventually moved to São Paulo, Montevideo, and then Brasilia. Many of her plays are verse dramas concerned with issues of power, gender and the environment and much of her poetry is also is also performed. Much of her work is done in both Portuguese and French. Her plays and performed poetry include The Constituent (2015), Callista (2015), The Creation of Pindorama (Portuguese, 2015) and The Venerable Virtues of Men (2016).

References for South America – Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century

Arendt, A.P. (2015). The Constituent. (English Edition). eBook: Ana Paula Arendt. Retrieved amazon.com 2019-04-20.
Arendt, A.P. (2016). Callista. (English Edition). eBook: Ana Paula Arendt. Retrieved amazon.com 2018-11-07.
Azougue. (2018). The Truth is a Daughter of the Lie. Azougue Editorial. Brazilian National Association of Writers. Retrieved April 12, 2019.

Evoé Collective. (2017). Meet the Playwrights of Female Voices from Brazil. Retrieved April 8, 2019 from https://www.evoecollective.com/single-post/2017/10/19/Meet-the-Playwrights-of-Female-Voices-From-Brazil

Farnsworth, M.S. (2017). Sex Work, Sickness, and Suicide: Argentine Feminist Theatre in the 1910s and 1920s. New York: Hemispheric Institute. Retrieved from

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Oceania - Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century

Oceania - Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century

Katharine Susannah Prichard

Although mainly known as a novelist, the Australian writer and playwright Katharine Susannah Prichard was one of Australia's first and most talented playwrights . Born in 1883, in Fiji, she was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of Australia in 1921. She wrote her first novel earlier in 1915. In 1922, she wrote her first play Brumby Innes which deals with the issue of gender and race relations in the outback Pilbara region of Western Australia. She returned to this theme in her controversial 1929 novel Coonardoo which portrayed relationships between white men and Indigenous Australian women in the outback. Her second play, Bid Me To Love was written in 1923 and it deals with another world, the world of the fashionably rich of Perth in Western Australia. Although an Australian theatre director of the period, Gregan McMahon considered her work as comparable to Eugene O’Neill’s drama, both plays had to wait until the 1960’s until they got their first performances.

Violet Targuse
One of New Zealand’s first important female playwrights was Violet Targuse. She wrote approximately seven plays (mostly one act plays). Her first play, Rabbits written in 1930 has become her most memorable and popular. Her style as a playwright is very naturalistic and her observation of individuals and social situations is quite astute. She wrote plays on mostly based around domestic themes set in kitchens and living rooms addressing the emotional and psychological concerns of women particularly in rural settings. Alienation and the search for meaning and purpose in domestic and rural settings are a hallmark of her plays.

Oriel Gray

One of Australia’s most prolific early female playwrights and theatre makers was Oriel Gray. Her work with the Socialist New Theatre in Sydney and the New Theatre in Melbourne spanned almost 50 years from 1940 until 2000. Her work explored the issues of social activism, feminism, the environment, Indigenous Australians, assimilation and bush life. In 1942, she became Australia’s first paid playwright in residence at Sydney’s New Theatre which put on primarily Socialist and radical political theatre. Her first play Lawson, was written in 1942 and performed in 1943 at the Sydney New Theatre. Over the next few years she wrote and had performed a string of plays including Westernlimit (1946), My Life is My Affair (1947), Had We But World Enough (1950), Sky without Birds (1950), The Belle And The Bushranger (1951), Hewers Of Coal (1951), The King Who Wouldn't (1952), Marx Of Time (1952), Milestones (1953) and Royal Tour (1953). Her 1954 play The Torrents was jointly awarded the Australian Playwright’s Advisory Board awards best play (along with Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll). In 1955 she wrote Drive a Hard Bargain (1955). In 1959 she wrote what many consider her greatest play Burst of Summer which depicted the real life events of Indigenous Australian actress Ngarla Kunith and the trials she faced when acting on Charles Chauvel’s film Jedda. The play won best play at the J.C.Williamson Theatre Guild Awards. She wrote for radio and television in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. She lived a long life and saw her work become popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. 

Dorothy Hewett

Probably the greatest Australian female playwright was Dorothy Hewett who was also known as a poet. Born in 1923 in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt in Wickepin, she joined the Communist Party in 1944. She married communist lawyer Lloyd Davies around this time but after the death of her son of leukaemia at the age of three, they divorced. She moved to Sydney and lived with Boilermaker Les Flood, a boilermaker. They had three sons together. She wrote for various Communist papers in the 1950’s. They divorced and she returned to Perth where she married Merv Lilley with whom she lived for the rest of her life and they had two daughters together. After the Prague Spring and the Soviet invasions of Poland and Czechoslovakia, Hewett renounced her membership of the Communist Party.
In 1967, Hewett wrote her first play This Old Man Comes Rolling Home which became a hit which stayed in the Australian theatre repertoire for many years. Her next two plays Mrs. Porter and the Angel (1969) and Bon-Bons and Roses For Dolly (1972) confirmed her plays as an important Australian playwright. But it was her 1972 play The Chapel Perilous that first achieved notoriety for her leading to her being one of the first recipients of an Australia Council playwright grants. The grants continued and saw her write continuously over the next few years including Catspaw (1974), Joan (1975), The Tatty Hollow Story (1976), The Golden Oldies (1977), Pandora's Cross (1978) and The Man From Mukinupin (1979) which was the winner of many awards.
Hewett continued to prolifically through the 1980’s producing plays such as Golden Valley (1981), Song of the Seals (1983), The Fields of Heaven (1983), Christina's World (1983) and Me and the Man in the Moon (1987). In the 1991, she started to develop osteoarthritis and moved to the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. In the mountains, she started to write more poetry but in 2000/2001 she produced two plays Nowhere and Jarrabin. She also wrote the play Halfway Up the Mountain for Melbourne’s Playbox Theatre but by 2001 she had started to develop breast cancer and eventually died in 2002.

Jean Betts 

Jean Betts is a New Zealand actor, director and playwright who was born in London. After graduating from the University of Canterbury with a degree in English Literature and New Zealand and Pacific History she went on to study as an actor at the New Zealand Drama School (now Toi Whakaari).
Betts worked initially as an actor but by 1972 she was also directing. She helped found in 1975, the Playmarket Theatre and the Circa Theatre in 1976. She was also a founding member of the Wellington-based Depot Theatre along also with the oversea New Zealand Theatre Company 'The Heartache and Sorrow Company' which performed in Amsterdam, Germany, London, and at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1993 Betts work with others to establish the Women's Professional Playwrights Association (WOPPA) which premiered Betts’ play Ophelia Thinks Harder in 1993.

With other collaborators, Betts co-founded an organization committed to publishing plays by women called The Women's Play Press.  In 2005 she set up a small NZ play publishing project, The Play Press to further the playwriting of women, New Zealand playwrights and especially playwrights of Maori and Indigenous heritage. Her own plays include The Nobodies from Nowhere (1973 co-written with Ludlam, Frost, Minifie & Wahren), Bloomsberries (1974), Fairy Tales (1976), Dada (1977), Leaving Home (compiled with Barbara Ewing in 1980), Revenge of the Amazons (1983), Digger and Nudger (developed in 1989 with Parry, McGlone and Hen's Teeth), Ophelia Thinks Harder (1993), Strange Brew (1995), Camelot School (1995), Saskia's Version (1996), BATS Theatre, Wellington), The Misandrist - an Angry Comedy (2000), The Collective (2005), The Man from Tamil Nadu (2010), Into the Uncanny Valley (2012) and Genesis Falls (2014).

Ollie Black

Ollie Black is an Australian theatre maker, social activist and the co-founder of the Wimmins Circus (Melbourne: 1979) and Vitalstatistix, (Adelaide: 1984). She later became the founder the National Women’s Theatre. Many people consider her also the mother of modern Australian Feminist theatre.

Black’s work in the performing arts started around 1977.   Her work in the performing arts is mostly movement and circus skills based and she has been the founder and co-founder of many companies including Desperate Measures, the Wimmins Circus, Circus OZ, Vitalstatistix and Kurruru.  As a performer and director in circus, youth theatre, community theatre and physical theatre, she has trained in a variety of movement based ways some of which were circus skill based and some were influenced by her interests in the Alexander Technique and Feldenkraus movement techniques.

Much of her work has been with women who have suffered abuse and her work in Australian Indigenous communities. Another element of her practice has been work with emerging artists and arts workers. This work should not be seen to anyway overshadow or undermine the important continual work Black has done with young people, and individual communities from urban to suburban to remote and local. This on-going commitment to Community theatre is perhaps her greatest achievement. This community work usually involved circus and theatre techniques and she extended this work for many years into youth development, training programmes, work in the prison and juvenile justice systems, and arts led health and well being programs. Her contributions to theatre and the arts as a force for social change are truly innovative. Black, at the time of writing this, is also the Co-coordinator of the St Bedes' Community Garden which helps to develop connection to food, growth and community as a vital step towards further community building.

Robyn Archer

The great Australian actor, singer, director, artistic director, writer and public arts activist Robyn Archer, changed the nature of Australian theatre forever. Archer was born Robyn Smith in Prospect, South Australia. She went to Adelaide University and started singing professionally while she completed an Undergraduate degree and then a Diploma of Education. In the early 1970’s she declared herself as openly gay.
In the 1970’s, Archer became famous for singing in Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht plays including The Seven Deadly Sins and Threepenny Opera. She performed the work of the German cabaret songs Weill, Eisler and Dessau.
In 1979, Archer’s one-woman cabaret A Star is Torn (in which she sang the songs of covering various female singers including Billie Holiday and Judy Garland). Her next show, The Pack of Women was an all-female cabaret ensemble piece which explores the sexual politics of modern life. In the 1980’s Archer wrote and developed the show The Conquest of Carmen Miranda to Songs From Sideshow Alley and Cafe Fledermaus. In 1989, she wrote the opera, Mambo.

Archer has been a very influential Festival Director. She was Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival from 1993-1995. From 2002 until 2004 she was Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. In 2007, Archer created The Light of Winter for Federation Square in Melbourne. In 2008, she wrote the play Architektin and in 2009 she devised the Tough Nut Cabaret for a production in the United States. She spent two years as Artistic Director of the European Capital of Culture. Archer’s other plays and performance work includes Live-Could-Possibly-Be-True-One-Day Adventures of Superwoman (1974), Kold Komfort Kaffe (1978), Songs from Sideshow Alley (1980), Captain Lazar and his Earthbound Circus (1980), The Conquest of Carmen Miranda (1982), Cut and Thrust (1983), Il Magnifico (1984), The 1985 Scandals (1985), Akwanso, Fly South (1988), Cafe Fledermaus (1990), Mrs Bottle's Absolutely Blurtingly Beautiful World Beating Burp (1990), Le Chat Noir (1991), The Bridge (1992), See Ya Next Century (1993), Ningali (1994), Sappho Sings the Blues (1997), Boy Hamlet (2000) and Architektin (2008). Archer is presently the Creative Director of the Centenary of Canberra.

Renée Gertrude Taylor

Renée Gertrude Taylor is a Maori and New Zealand writer, feminist and playwright who also has Irish, English and Scottish heritage who was born in Napier, New Zealand in 1929. Renée calls herself as a lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals. Her first drama which was the 1981 drama Setting the Table. From an early age she chose to adopt being called only by her first name, the name her mother had given her.
Renée is a ground-breaking figure for women in the New Zealand theatre landscape. She began acting in the Napier Repertory Theatre and then directed plays. After attending the United Women’s Convention in Wellington in 1975, she started to develop more her commitment to a more uniquely New Zealand feminist theatre.
In 1979, Renée relocated to Auckland to complete her B.A. at the University and worked part-time as a cleaner at Auckland's Theatre Corporate. Six years later, she returned to Theatre Corporate as Playwright in Residence. Her first commercial success as a playwright was Setting the Table (1981). She was invited to attend the First International Women Playwrights Conference in New York in October 1988 and she also attended the Pacific Writers Conference in London. Her plays explore Māori women’s lives and their unique experiences.
Some of Renée's best known plays form a trilogy, beginning with Wednesday to Come (1985) which shows the effect on a New Zealand family of the 1930s Great Depression. Then Pass It On (1986) follows the two children in Wednesday to Come now that they have grown up and married. Jeannie Once (1991), is a prequel to Wednesday to Come. Her most recent plays include Heroines, Hussies and High, High Flyers (1993) and Shall We Gather at the River (2010).

Sarah Delahunty 

Sarah Delahunty is a New Zealand playwright, director and writer who was born in Wellington, New Zealand. She has written over 30 plays, many of which have been for youth and children’s theatre. Her children’s theatre pieces include adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, The Emperor's New Clothes, Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, The Adventures of Toad, The Frog Prince, The Tinderbox, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, The Gingerbread Man, Snow White and Rose Red, The BFG and The Twits. Delahunty wrote plays (mostly one act plays) for adults including Stretchmarks (1985), Loose Connections (1986), Gifts (1992), Greener Grass (1992), Second Sight (1996), Damage (1998), The Last Gasp Café (2000), Damage (2000), Blind Date (2000), Dear Felicity (2000), Driving You Crazy (2002), Lifelines (2002), The Oddity (2002), Time On Our Side (2002), Eating the Wolf (2005), Superbeast (2006), Another Planet (2007), Homework (2007), 2b or nt 2b (2008), The Antigone Project (2008), Medea Songs (2010), Inside Out (2010), Trusting Strangers, Counting Stars (2010), Song of Four (2010), Crazy Joint Love (2011), Falling Sparrows Here or There (2011), Affinity (2013), 4 billion likes (2014) and Where She Stood (2015).

Hannie Rayson 

The Australian playwright Hannie Rayson has become perhaps the most prolific, most awarded and most well-known Australian playwright of recent years. She was born in 1957, in Melbourne. She is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and Victorian College of the Arts. Rayson initially worked as a journalist before helping to co-found the Melbourne community theatre collective Theatreworks. Her first plays written while she was at Theatreworks include Please Return to Sender (1980), Mary (1981), Leave It Till Monday (1984) and Room To Move (1985).

Rayson’s first popular and successful play was Hotel Sorrento which premiered in 1990. The play is a comedy which centres around the reunion of three sisters who have lived for the last ten years in different places and different worlds. Identity, sense of place and familial bonds and constraints are explored in the play. The play is one of the popular and most performed plays in Australia and is studied by school students. Soon after, Rayson wrote Falling From Grace (1994) which centres around the lives of three female friends who juggle work, children and lovers.

In 1995, Rayson co-wrote with Andrew Bovell, Scenes from a Separation. This was soon followed by Competitive Tenderness in 1996. Her next critically successful play was Life After George (2000). Life After George begins at Peter George’s funeral. His wife, two ex-wives and daughter have congregated together to bury him. The play explores why those studying at universities are no longer students but customers and considers how such a corporate agenda has changed education. George, like the play itself, is complex in exploration of personal, political and social changes.
Rayson’s 2003 play Inheritance was also critically acclaimed. The play is set in the Mallee District in country Victoria in Australia. Revolving around the family politics when the Delaneys and the Hamiltons gather to celebrate the eightieth birthdays of the families’ matriarchs who are twin sisters. The play explores divisions – city/the bush, white/Indigenous and duty/freedom. The complex question of whether inheritance is ownership and whether a connection to a place and the land can give someone a greater sense of belonging and ownership.
Two Brothers (2005) explores the nature of the relationship between power and evil through representing the relationship between two brothers on either side of the political divide. The play opens on a dark and stormy night when James Benedict, the Minister for Home Security (one of the brothers), kills a man in self-defence.
In 2008, Rayson looked at the extraordinary life of Nelson Ferguson in The Glass Soldier. Ferguson was a stretcher-bearer in World War 1 and was blinded in both eyes during a gas attack. After the war, Ferguson showed just how extraordinary he actually was. Rayson wrote The Swimming Club in 2010, a play which centres on a group of six middle-aged friends who met on a Greek Island in their twenties and now have met up again to relive their youth (and quote Sappho and Homer). In 2016, Rayson wrote the play Extinction which is a thought-provoking piece about modern attitudes to the environment and the precarious relationship humans have to the planet and other species.

Joanna Murray-Smith

Joanna Murray-Smith was born in Mount Eliza in Victoria, Australia in 1962. She graduated from the University of Melbourne and after that attended the writing program at Columbia University, New York. Her play Honour was created in 1985 while she was at Columbia University. The play was presented in a public reading with Meryl Streep, Sam Waterson and Kyra Sedgwick. Later in 1985, Honour had its Australian premiere (it had to wait until 1998 for its Broadway premiere at the Belasco Theatre and it was not performed on the West End until 2003). Honour tells the story of George and Honor who have been married 32 years. George tells Honor that he wants to leave her for a younger woman. However, the play deals with these issues with a complexity and a sensitivity which allows the notions of sacrifice and identity to be dealt with wit and nuance.

In 1987, Murray-Smith wrote Angry Young Penguins which was about Australia’s most famous literary hoax where the editors of the Modernist magazine ‘Angry Penguins’ created a fictitious poet called ‘Ern’ O’Malley. This was followed by Atlanta in 1990 and then Love Child in 1993. Love Child revolves around the character of Anna, a politically conscious and independent woman who thinks that she has come to terms with her past until a young woman knocks on her door and she must attempt to reconcile herself with the daughter she gave away at birth. Murray-Smith also wrote Ridge’s Lovers in 1993.

As the 1990’s progressed, Murray-Smith took up a few posts as writer in residence and this proved fruitful for her dramatic output yielding Flame (1994), Redemption (1997) and Nightfall (1999).

The 21st Century saw the rise of Murray-Smith as one of the most prolific playwrights in Australia with Rapture (2002) (Playbox Theatre Company), Bombshells (2004) (Melbourne Theatre Company), The Female of the Species (2006) (Melbourne Theatre Company), Ninety (2008), Scenes from a Marriage (2008), Songs for Nobodies (2010), The Gift (2011), Day One, a Hotel, Evening (2011), true Minds (2013), Switzerland (2014), Pennsylvania Avenue (2014) and Three Little Words (2017).
Here is website with information and extracts from interviews with Joanna Murray-Smith:


Jane Harrison 

Jane Harrison is an Indigenous Australian from Muruwari descent who is a playwright, novelist and researcher born in 1960. Her first play, Stolen was written over six years but it premiered in 1998. The play explores the devastating effects of Australian Government policy of forced removal of Indigenous Australians from their families which officially was conducted from1905 until 1969 (but in fact continued beyond 1969). The play centres around the stories of five Aboriginal children and their experiences as children and adults. Stolen is a stylistically rich piece which uses Indigenous languages, strong monologues and alienation effects to create a potent piece of modern theatre. The style of the play combines post-modern and modern Indigenous Australian storytelling elements using some local Indigenous Australian dialect, language and storytelling alienation effects, irony and cross-cutting between monologues, dialogues and direct storytelling.

Harrison’s 2005 play Rainbow’s End was commissioned by Ilbijerri Theatre Company (the longest existing Australian Indigenous theatre company) and is set in 1950’s and explores three generations of an Aboriginal family and the story of their survival and how their sense of place and belonging helps them endure great injustices and hardships. Harrison herself said that the play explores how “… knowledge comes understanding, with understanding comes empathy, and these are the stepping stones in the healing process.”

On a Park Bench (2005) was soon followed by Blakvelvet (2006). Harrison’s 2014 play The Visitors, performed at the Melbourne Indigenous Festival in February 2014 and the play reimagines the arrival of the First Fleet from the standpoint of seven senior Australian Indigenous elders or lawmen.

I suggest starting reading Jane Harrison’s Stolen (1998).
Here is a video-clip of Jane Harrison talking about how she came to write Stolen:
Here is a link to download the play:


Alison Marie Quigan

Quigan, like many New Zealand female theatre and drama practitioners, has worked in many fields and domains. She is a New Zealand actor, director and playwright but above this, she has been a mentor and inspiration to two to three generations of New Zealand actors, directors, writers and creatives. Quigan trained at the Auckland’s Theatre Corporate Actors School in 1978 and 1979 and throughout her career, she has acted in and directed over 150 plays and written and co-written approximately 12 plays.

As Artistic Director of the Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North for over 18years from 1986 until 2004, Quigan directed about 63 plays and wrote a string of plays during this period as well.
Known as a great believer in the collaborative techniques of theatre, many of her earliest plays were collaborations written with Ross Gumbley and Lucy Schmidt. Some of the plays written in collaboration during the 1990’s and earlier 21st century were Five Go Barmy in Palmy (written in 1994 with Ross Gumbley), Biggles on Top (written in 1995 with Ross Gumbley), Boys at the Beach (written in 1997 with Ross Gumbley), Shop Till You Drop (written in 1998 with Ross Gumbley), The Newbury Hall Dances or Flagons and Foxtrots (written in 1999 with Ross Gumbley), The Big OE (written in 2000 with Ross Gumbley), Sisters (written in 2001 with Lucy Schmidt) and Netballers (written in 2002 with Lucy Schmidt). Some of the plays written by Quigan on her own include The School Ball (2003), Mum's Choir (2004),Girl’s Weekend Escape (2004) and the highly successful Ladies for Hire (2009).

Some people comment on the parochial domestic nature of much of Quigan’s work, however the intricacy of the relationships between characters both in her playwrighting and her directing gave a nuanced complexity to her work.

Since 2013, Quigan has been Performing Arts Manager at Mangere Arts Centre - Nga Tohu O Aotearoa where she continues to mentor and provide direction to new generations of New Zealand theatre and drama practitioners.

Makerita Urale

Makerita Urale is a Samoan playwright, documentary director and a leader in Polynesian theatre. Born on the island of Savai'i in Samoa, Her family moved to New Zealand when she was a child. Her first play, Frangipani Perfume (1998) was the first Polynesian play with an all female cast to be publicly performed in modern times. The plot of the play revolves around three Polynesian sisters who move to New Zealand to work as cleaners carrying with them their sense of Polynesian ancestry along with their dreams and aspirations. The play is lyrical theatre with aspects of magic realism and involves rich imagery and stylised movement. Urale's other plays are mostly written for children. These plays include The Magic Seashell and Popo, the Fairy. 

Urale has also become well known for her work as a theatre director and producer and many of her seminal productions have included The Debate (1995), A Frigate Bird Sings (1996), Ricordi (1996), Classical Polynesia (1998), Duty Free (1998) and a season in 2004 of short plays by Maori playwrights. 

Nakkiah Lui

Nakkiah Lui is an Indigenous Australian playwright, director, comic writer, social commentator, radio broadcaster and actor of Gamilaroi (Northern NSW and Southern QLD from Quirindi in the south to Walgett in the west to Nindigully in the north to Glen Innes in the east) and Torres Strait Islander heritage. Lui was born in Sydney in 1991 and she grew up in the working class Western Sydney suburb of St Marys which is next to Mount Druitt where many of her comic sketches are set.

Lui grew battling with racism as well as obesity (she was 120 kg as a teenager). She also spent much of her childhood visiting relatives in jail and some of this material forms the basis of some of her dramatic work both for plays and for television. She is probably best known as a playwright of several plays, the co-writer and star of Black Comedy (a television program on the ABC), a columnist for Australian Women's Weekly, one of the hosts of Radio National’s Awaye program and a regular guest and social commentator appearing on ABC’s The Drum and Q&A.

At the age of 16, Lui was awarded a scholarship to Pearson College UWC on Canada’s Vancouver Island. Despite being homesick during this period, she immersed herself in reading plays including those of Indigenous Australian playwright Leah Purcell. Her first play written during this time centred around a set of monologues written in the style of Purcell.

Lui’s first public performed play, The Prisoner and the Soldier was performed at the 2010 Short+Sweet Festival in Sydney and it explores the imprisonment of her Indigenous Australian grandfather Fred Beale (who Lui and her sister visited every day as children) who was a prisoner of war captured in the fall of Singapore and taken to Japan. She didn’t know any actors when her play was chosen for performance, so she got her parents to perform in the play.

 From this play, Lui was awarded a position as playwright=in-residence from 2012 to 2014 at Sydney's Belvoir Theatre. She was also seconded in 2013 to the Griffin Theatre where she held the position of artist-in-residence. This was a prolific period for Lui since she wrote I Should Have Told You Before We Made Love (That I’m Black) (2012), This Heaven (2013) and Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owners of Death (2013). In 201, Lui was awarded the Dreaming Award by The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Arts Board of the Australia Council.

Lui’s play Blackie Blackie Brown was a huge but controversial success at the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 2 Theatre. The opening moments of this play with the lines “Your white meat is DONE, mother***er!” and the dragging of a flamboyantly dressed theatregoer through a hole in stage floor were bound to be confronting and controversial in the satirical and dangerously camp style that is evident in some of Lui’s work. The play’s narrative is centred around an Indigenous Australian archeologist who gains superpowers embracing the ancient figure of Blackie, an Indigenous Australian superhero whose mission is to kill all the living descedants of the four white men who massacred the young archeologist’s great-great grandmother’s people. The satire of the play was often underplayed by the original media attention which saw the play as glorifying murdering ‘white’ people based on the colour of their skin or the actions of their ancestors. However, Lui sees her play as unpacking the issue of racism, white supremacy and the black trauma through switching the premise of violence based on race around. Lui sees the play as a satire revenge comedy which comments on the violent history of genocide of Australia which is largely hidden and not talked about openly. The play contains powerful speeches and productions have included digital comic book style projections which allow the violent aspects of the play to comically address the serious issues underlying the play.

Lui has continued to create powerful dramatic and comic works including Kill the Messenger (2015), Power Plays (2016) and Black is the New White (2019). The work done by Lui and other Indigenous Australian writers and comedians on Black Comedy (2014 & 2016) is a watershed in Australian and Indigenous Australian television. Lui has also hosted Radio National’s Awaye and NAIDOC Evenings for ABC Local Radio, and has appeared on Q&A and The Drum on ABC. She shares a podcast called Pretty for an Aboriginal which she co-hosts with fellow Indigenous Australian actress Miranda Tapsell which has more than ten episodes and explores topics from indigenous Australian culture to race relations to power to sex to relationships to dating. 

References for Oceania - Females in Theatre and Drama in the 20th and 21st Century
  • Books
  • Barish, Jonas, The Antitheatrical Prejudice, University of California Press, London, England, 1981. 
  • Casey, Maryrose, Creating Frames Contemporary Indigenous Theatre 1967-1990, University of Queensland Press (UQP), Brisbane, Queensland, 2004. 
  • Fensham, Rachel and Varney, Denise, The Dolls' Revolution: Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2005. 
  • Milne, Geoffrey, Theatre (Un)Limited: Australian Theatre Since the 1950s, Rodopi, New York, United States of America, 2004. 
  • Rees, Leslie, A History of Australian Drama: From the 1830s to the late 1960s, 2 edn, vol. 1 of 2, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, New South Wales, 1987. 
  • Rees, Leslie, A History of Australian Drama: Australian Drama 1970 - 1985, vol. 2 of 2, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, New South Wales, 1987. 
  • Wimmer, Carol, 'Early Australian Drama 1788 - 1914', in Crawford, Jerry; Hurst, Catherine; and Lugering, Michael (eds), Acting in Person and in Style in Australia, McGraw Hill, Auckland, New Zealand, 1995. 
  • Fotheringham, Richard (ed.), Community Theatre in Australia, revised edn, Methuen Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, 1992. 
  • Goodman, Lizbeth, with de Gay, Jane (ed.), The Routledge Reader in Gender and Performance, Routledge, New York, United States of America, 1998. 
  • Parsons, Phillip with Chance, Victoria (ed.), A Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press in association with Cambridge University Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 1995.
  • Tait, Peta (ed.), Converging Realities: Feminism in Australian Theatre, Currency Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 1994. 
Journal Articles
  • Glow, Hilary, 'Recent Indigenous Theatre in Australia: The Politics of Autobiography', International Journal of the Humanities, vol. 4, no. 1, 2006, pp. 71-7. 
  • Hibberd, Jack, 'Performing Arts in Australia', Meanjin, vol. 1, 1984.
Online Resources
  • Zimdahl, Cathrine, 'Where Playscripts Go To Live and Other Art - Related Events', in 7 - On Playwrights: Donna Abela, Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Noelle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning, Cathrine Zimdahl, 28 November 2013, http://sevenon.blogspot.com.au/.