It’s a delivery-room for new Australian drama. Two Flinders graduates will usher an infant play into existence at the upcoming National Play Festival, when Nescha Jelk directs Deluge, the latest work from playwright Phillip Kavanagh.
Deluge is among several new pieces to have their first airing at the annual playwriting event, to be held in Adelaide from July 22 to 25.
Flowing from its strong involvement in drama, Flinders University is one of the Festival’s sponsors. Julian Meyrick, Professor of Creative Arts at Flinders, who was formerly on the board of the Festival’s organising body, Playwriting Australia, describes it as “very high end”.
The Festival showcases emerging and established playwriting talents from around Australia. Their new works are turned over to a troupe of professional actors, who develop them and then present them in a program of staged readings during a four-day public event, to be held at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
The Festival is part workshop and part trade fair, with playwrights given the chance to fine tune and then show off their latest creations to producers from around the country.
“It’s a chance for people to come and taste the goods,” Professor Meyrick says.
“Because developing a new play is so hard, and producing a new play is a significant risk, anything that gives a producing company a sense of the quality of a play in near-performance conditions is an important industry tool. So the Festival is taken very seriously indeed.”
Professor Meyrick describes Philip Kavanagh as “a very able and talented playwright”.
Deluge, which involves five sub-plays and ten characters running simultaneously, started life as part of a workshop with award-winning playwright and screenwriter Andrew Bovell. A creative arts graduate, Mr Kavanagh was awarded the 2011 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award for the best unproduced script for Little Borders; Nescha Jelk, a Flinders drama graduate, is Associate Director at the State Theatre Company.
The Festival features another Flinders graduate in Ben Brooker, whose latest play The Dreamy House is part of the Homebaked section of the program.
Alongside the Play Festival, the creative arts at Flinders will also run a research Symposium on 24 July at Flinders University Victoria Square, for staff and postgraduate in the disciplines.
“The Creative Arts Symposium cuts across all four creative arts streams – creative writing, drama, screen and digital media – and will also extend to members of the Flinders Art Museum,” Professor Meyrick said.
Staff from the Adelaide College of Arts, which runs degree courses in fashion, dance and visual art with Flinders, will also participate.
In addition to 12 research papers, the keynote address at the Symposium will be given by Professor Sarah Miller from the University of Wollongong.
While representing very different worlds, Professor Meyrick said that the university and cultural sectors have a major overlap when it comes to innovative creative arts practice.
“I see potentially a very productive relationship in the cultural field between university research, processes and outcomes, and innovation in the industry,” he says.
Another valuable aspect of the Symposium is simply to provide an opportunity for interaction.
“There’s a lot of talk about collaboration in university research. But if you want it to happen, you have to provide events where people can get to know each other’s work,” Professor Meyrick said.