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30 Years Of Taking Plays From Page To The Stage

2 April 2002


It was 30 years ago this month that the late playwright Robert Lord sat a group of New Zealand play-lovers down on his bed, in a tiny flat on Wellington's Clifton Terrace, and proposed the formation of an organisation to serve New Zealand playwrights. 'Playmarket' would represent their rights, assess and workshop plays, and bring promising writers to the notice of theatres. 30 years on, our national playwrights agency and script development service continues to grow, a key independent arts organisation leading the development and promotion of New Zealand plays both here and overseas.

Formed by Lord, Ian Fraser, Nonnita Rees and Judy Russell in April 1973, Playmarket has grown from tiny offices in a former toilet block (the Taj Mahal next to Downstage) and under a staircase (at Victoria University), to being a powerhouse for the New Zealand play located in central Wellington. For 30 years the organisation has represented our playwrights. From Foreskins Lament to FILTH, Glide Time to The God Boy, Playmarket has provided professional workshops and readings for over 400 new plays, not to mention thousands of script consultations and assessments.

Playmarket are celebrating their 30th birthday with a range of events throughout New Zealand: … The presentation with Wellington's Circa Theatre in October of a season of plays by new New Zealand writers. … Workshops and presentations open to the public of new work by playwrights at next week's Ignite Festival at The Edge in Auckland. … The 2003 Aotearoa Playwrights Forum in Auckland in September, featuring public presentations of new full-length works for the stage and a forum on Pacific Island Playwriting. … The publication in October of a special edition of Playmarket's theatre industry magazine Playmarket News considering the development of the New Zealand play over the last 30 years. … Supporting the launch of the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust, which is bringing the vision of this Playmarket founder to Dunedin in making his cottage rent-free to writers for writing projects. … The Seventh New Zealand Young Playwrights Competition, with a series of workshops and public presentations of the winners' work in Dunedin in July. … Public rehearsed readings of new full-length plays in the Adam Playreading Series at Wellington's Downstage Theatre in June and July. … Functions for Playmarket's client writers and the theatre industry in the country's four main centres with special guest speakers.

The 30th anniversary of Playmarket is also a 30th for the New Zealand play. Indeed, in 1973 playwright Bruce Mason wrote: "It seems to me that the theatre art is still so shallow-rooted in New Zealand life, and its practitioners so few and so frail, that I could not very well subject the work of any of my colleagues to the test of detailed analysis." Playmarket was formed in 1973 to respond to the need for more New Zealand plays to make it onto our stage. A key aspect of this endeavour was considered the development of our playwrights and their plays and promotion of their work.

How things have changed. This year our professional theatres and theatre companies have already confirmed that by the end of 2003 they will have premiered 30 full-length new New Zealand plays, as well as reviving at least 15 others. 2003 has been christened 'Year of the New Zealand Play' by the Playwrights Association of New Zealand (PANZ), with an endorsement from the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage and Associate Minister Judith Tizard.

In addition to the events mentioned above, in 2003 Playmarket will represent the writers of these productions and fund and administer workshops of about 20 new plays. Playmarket also provides writers groups in New Zealand's four main centres, weekly playreadings, a play bookshop, monthly information bulletins for playwrights, and circulates and promotes New Zealand playscripts to producers worldwide. Playmarket receives major funding from Creative New Zealand.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT OUR WEBSITE WWW.PLAYMARKET.ORG.NZ, OR CONTACT: Mark Amery, Script Development Manager at Playmarket. tel: +64 4 382 8462, 16 Cambridge Terrace, Wellington. Fax: +64 4 382 8461.

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