A scene from Ursula Yovich’s play Barbara and the Camp Dogs, which won the award in 2007. Image by Patrick Boland.

A scene from Ursula Yovich’s play Barbara and the Camp Dogs, which won the award in 2007. Image by Patrick Boland.

Sydney’s Belvoir theatre is offering emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists a $25,000 paid residency to develop an original stage production, with the newly expanded fellowship program supported by The Balnaves Foundation.

Since 2012, the foundation has supported the creation of a new play by an Indigenous playwright through its Belvoir Indigenous Playwright’s Award. Past recipients have included Nakkiah Lui, Jada Alberts, Leah Purcell, Katie Beckett, Ursula Yovich and Megan Wilding.

In its 2018 incarnation, the award has grown into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Fellowship, with the program expanding to accept applications from a broader range of artists including directors, playwrights and writer/directors.

During the year-long fellowship, the recipient will work to develop a new Indigenous-led stage production, such as a new play or a theatre adaptation.

To support them in the creation of the new work, the recipient will be given a $25,000 grant, become a resident artist at Belvoir in 2019, and receive ‘wrap-around support’ from the Surry Hills theatre’s staff.

Alongside the award and fellowship programs, since 2011 The Balnaves Foundation has also supported Belvoir’s Indigenous Theatre program. This includes a performance in the upstairs theatre led by an established Indigenous artist, with an emerging Indigenous artist’s work performed downstairs.

Entries for the 2018 fellowship close 6pm Monday 6th August, with the winner to be announced as part of Belvoir’s 2019 season launch.

Balnaves Foundation CEO Hamish Balnaves said the award program has consistently provided a platform for Indigenous artists to produce work that speaks for itself, and has gone on to receive both critical and commercial acclaim.

“This is why we fund both the Award and the production of Indigenous-led work at Belvoir. We are tremendously proud of the artists and the calibre of work this Award has produced,” Balnaves said.

“Last year, the Award commissioned Megan Wilding (The Rover), who follows in the footsteps of artists like Leah Purcell who wrote The Drover’s Wife as part of the award, which went on to win Best New Australian Work at the 2016 Sydney Theatre Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2017.

“And Ursula Yovich’s work Barbara and the Camp Dogs was such a hit at Belvoir in the 2017 season.”

Belvoir’s head of new work, Louise Gough, said her organisation is honoured to have a long-term relationship with The Balnaves Foundation. “We share a deep belief in and commitment to the support of Indigenous theatre-makers and the rich and varied stories to be told.”

“The new Fellowship model for the Award, which accepts submissions from writers, writer/directors and directors as well as offering a one-year residency at Belvoir, is an exciting step toward deeper collaboration, and richer outcomes,” Gough said.

“We look forward to a new voice, a new story and a new theatrical experience from the next Balnaves Fellow at Belvoir.”

Purcell, who won the Belvoir Indigenous Playwright’s Award in 2014, said the program was a game changer that “allowed the scope and resources to develop and write a play that didn’t have to fit a theme, program or an agenda, it was picked on story and merit”.

The Drover’s Wife became an instant classic (not my words but the panels of judges who handed the play numerous awards in 2017) and all due to The Balnaves Foundation and Belvoir’s strong belief and support of Indigenous stories and storytellers,” Purcell said.

“I believe in 20 years The Balnaves Foundation and Belvoir’s work in this space will be looked upon as a ‘movement’ in which artists such as myself, Nakkiah Lui, Jada Alberts, Ursula Yovich and plays such as The Drover’s Wife, Kill the Messenger, Brothers Wreck and Barbara and the Camp Dogs was where world class Australian careers were born or rebooted and launched.

“The proof is in these remarkable works that have become important and classic Australian theatre, but have also gone from stage to screen or novel or both, such as The Drover’s Wife and its journey from play to film to novel. The proof is there for all to see.”

Further details about the program and applications are available on the Belvoir website.