Earlier this month, Queanbeyan-born playwright, Tommy Murphy, was one of eight artists to be lauded at the 2020 Australia Council Awards.
The prestigious national awards recognise Australian artists who have made an outstanding contribution to their art forms, and to the cultural life of the nation.
Murphy received the theatre award, the Australia Council for the Arts noting he created "the kind of deeply nuanced characters who both challenge and clarify what we share as people".
Now, a mere three weeks later, Murphy is riding out the coronavirus pandemic, back in his home town of Queanbeyan, the arts on hold, along with the rest of the world.
"The theatres have closed. Television production has been paused. We've never been in a situation quite like this before," Murphy said, on Friday.
We will have a fever-hot appreciation for what we had to forgo: congregation, physical intimacy, collaborations, a nightlife a day life even... and much more. Some things will be forever changed. New skills will be gained. Let's dance in the streetsQueanbeyan-born playwright Tommy Murphy on life after the coronavirus.
"It was already a challenging time for the arts in Australia due to reduced funding. For me, personally, I am currently occupied by projects in development, including screen works. Nothing is certain but this is fortunate because it relies on isolation anyway.
"The collaborative part has been via video conferencing this fortnight and that's working okay. Others are not as lucky as me because they are the actors and designers and technicians who earn their crust from production. All of the support staff have been impacted. I worry for them.
"I do know personally that the arts is a supportive community. That togetherness, despite the distancing, will see us through. But it's going to be very tough and very uncertain for us all for some time."
Murphy wants to share the good fortune of his award.
"It is a very generous prize. I am aware I have received it at a time of uncertainty for many of my fellow artists. It will allow me to carve out time to write for the stage. I have a commission with Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir," he said.
"I'll also offer my services to the company that gave me a start. That's The Canberra Youth Theatre. I had a play produced there in 1996. They acquainted me with the professional rigour and the thrill of the job, that I try to maintain since. I'd like to help them foster new voices for the stage."
Murphy said the crisis would undoubtedly inspire artists.
"Resilience is a key theme of all drama. Enduring hardships. Dramatic writing attempts to provide the toolkit for surviving adversity. Yes, there's an added impetus to the work. It is unavoidable and absolutely right that all artists respond implicitly or directly to this moment," he said.
"I imagine that when the plagues closed the theatres at various times in history it resulted in a renewed vigour to debate and dramatise the here and now."
But he has looked to the way other countries are responding to the arts in the midst of the crisis; Germany dedicating billions to shoring up its arts and creative industries and England allocating millions for artists to create works that will buoy the public during these dark days.
"Where's our national response? he said, on Friday.
Even with so much uncertainty, Murphy chooses is look ahead to the other side.
"I am an optimist. I focus on that happy time when we will all come out from the lockdown," he said.
"We will have a fever-hot appreciation for what we had to forgo: congregation, physical intimacy, collaborations, a nightlife a day life even... and much more. Some things will be forever changed. New skills will be gained. Let's dance in the streets."
Murphy said the crisis was revealing more about ourselves.
"I have witnessed much of this crisis from within a Canberra hospital. I am here helping a loved one recover from surgery, " he said.
"The hospital has progressively locked down across my visits. I've seen something that I already knew: our healthcare workers are extraordinarily brave, giving and resourceful. This crisis will remind us all to value our nurses, in particular. I've been inspired and moved by all the healthcare professionals at John James in Deakin this past fortnight."
And, in the meantime, he has an appropriate book for company.
"I reached into my late dad, Philip's, study for a book that I know he treasured and I've been meaning to read for years. The timing is apposite for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in The Time of Cholera. No spoilers but do you know if it ends well?" he said.
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