Theatre insulating itself, says director
Griffin's new artistic director Lee Lewis. Photo: Tamara Dean
YOUNG Australian playwrights often fail to engage with the rise of great analytical writing, says Lee Lewis, the Griffin Theatre's new artistic director.
Theatre companies haven't been leading the critical discourse, says Lewis, 42, who is charged with leading the only theatre company in the country dedicated to Australian plays.
I'm trying to push a greater reach with the playwrights.
A new generation of playwrights is interested in a complex discussion about where the country is going, Lewis says, but they often operate in ''silos'' and they haven't been sufficiently exposed to the growth in essay writing.
''It feels like the play world has been insulating itself from the larger writing ecology,'' says Lewis, who is six weeks into her new job at Griffin. ''I think, given the next 20 years and the changes in communications, the nature of what it is to write means anyone who has that capacity needs to be in partnership, as opposed to siloed off into different professions.''
Lewis is on a mission to connect playwrights with essayists, journalists, doctors and lawyers who can provide context for a new generation of theatre makers.
She says essayists, non-fiction writers and journalists are ''writing at a level of engagement and rigour that I'm finding is not necessarily in playwriting''.
Lewis aims to establish informal channels to link young playwrights with individuals in other professions, as well as build on formal channels such as the annual Story Lab convention, which Griffin quietly launched last November at Casula Powerhouse, engaging 15 emerging playwrights in conversations and workshops with senior theatre professionals.
''My big conversation with all the playwrights I'm talking to at the moment is 'who are you reading?' … And they're like 'I'm reading the plays of Tommy Murphy' and I'm like 'I'm not interested in what plays you're reading, I'm interested in what essays, what writers from overseas','' she says.
''Especially as column inches in newspapers are disappearing, people are writing more widely and establishing themselves as thinker/writers. The writer as philosopher is growing again because people are starting to write for themselves.
''Whereas our playwrights are going, 'please produce my play' … I'm trying to push a greater reach with the playwrights,'' Lewis says.