Through the collaborative efforts of Performance 4a and Playwriting Australia (PWA), the LOTUS Asian-Australian Playwriting Program aims to be a facilitator for Asian-Australian playwrights to carve out a space for themselves. Originally established as an introduction and mentoring opportunity for Asian-Australian writers, funding from the Girgensohn Foundation has allowed LOTUS to expand to a three year program.
In the first year of the program, free introductory workshops were open to Asian-Australians interested in developing their skills as storytellers. Additionally on offer for intermediate playwrights was The Salon, which culminated in readings at partnering companies. Hao Pham, a writer involved with the LOTUS salon in Melbourne, saw LOTUS as a safe space for Asian Australians to express culturally specific material without being met with confusion: “…my fellow playwrights coming from Asian backgrounds meant that I did not have to explain the Buddhist aspects of my play, and the feedback was culturally sensitive.”
Now, Hoa Pham along with eleven other writers selected from the previous two stages, are developing first drafts of full-length work with the help of mentors and masterclasses. Since November 2015, these playwrights have been undergoing mentorship in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. In their respective cities, writers are participating in group discussions and masterclasses lead by Jane Brodie (Melbourne), Stephen Carleton (Brisbane) and Tommy Murphy (Sydney). One-on-one mentoring is also provided by pairing LOTUS writers with established playwrights.
From here, these writers will continue to develop their work culminating in various opportunities for the writers involved: one play will be selected for the National Play Festival 2018 and three writers will be selected for a 6-12 month paid residency with a key theatre company in their capital city.
Ultimately, the program will achieve an integration of Asian-Australian writers and stories in ‘mainstream’ culture where white Anglo-Saxon voices have traditionally reigned. Annette Shu Wah, executive producer of Performance 4a and a judge on the LOTUS panel, highlighted theatre as a collaborative practice. By bringing Performance 4a’s networks and communities to larger organisations such as PWA, Performance 4a is able to provide these writers with the infrastructure and expertise that Performance 4a might otherwise lack. This model is crucial for removing Asian-Australian voices from the ‘niche’ and locating within the mainstream.
Diversity also means creating a space where young, inexperienced writers are able to get in contact with mentors or established writers in the industry to learn more. LOTUS’ first and second stages were open to all, regardless of participation. While Performance 4a is not running any other programs at present, there are other short term courses run by a number of writers’ centres, universities and some theatres. La Boite’s website provides a comprehensive list of programs and awards for writers.
We can only hope that with LOTUS’ current success and the opportunities it offers Asian-Australian writers, funding will allow it to continue operating after this particular course has been completed in 2018.
In the meantime, keep up-to-date with the program here.
Alternatively, keep tabs on social media for updates and open calls: