Australia’s national peak body for the development of new plays, Playwriting Australia, is facing an uncertain future, with all employment positions made redundant and an independent review slated.

Lachlan PhilpottPlaywriting Australia Artistic Director Lachlan Philpott

“Like many cultural organisations of its scale, and especially those that don’t have the benefit of box office revenue, PWA has recently faced questions of sustainability,” said PWA Chair Peter Wilson in a statement on its website. “However, we believe that this decision, while difficult, will unlock a pathway to a more sustainable and better integrated model for developing the very best plays and playwrights, and open up the pipelines to our welcoming stages.”

A wide-ranging review of play development in Australia will be conducted by independent consultant Richard Evans & Associates. According to the Board’s statement, the review has the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, which provides annual funding for PWA.

“The Australia Council is invested in the best possible outcomes for the development of Australian plays, playwrights and playwriting being provided to the theatre sector for the benefit of artists and audiences,” said the Australia Council’s Executive Director, Grants and Engagement, Frank Panucci. “We look forward to engaging with the recommendations of the review proposed by the PWA Board.”

PWA’s Artistic Director Lachlan Philpott and General Manager Michelle Kotevski have both been made redundant and the PWA’s reserves will be placed in trust pending the completion of the review.

“While the Review is undertaken, PWA remains committed to delivering on its existing program for 2019 including the First Nations Writers’ Retreat; the Duologue and Post Production programs,” the Board said. “PWA will determine the most effective short term model to ensure consistency of delivery, including a possible arrangement with Griffin Theatre Company.”

“This is not the first time that we’ve needed to take stock,” said PWA director and playwright Andrew Bovell. “Playwriting Australia rose from the ashes of the much loved ANPC and Playworks. That transition wasn’t easy. Change never is. But it gave rise to an organisation better suited to the times. PWA has played a dynamic role in our theatre landscape since 2006 but now it’s time to consider what’s needed in the future.”

“This is not easy for those who have been a part of this organisation and committed to its vision,” he said. “We could hold on. We could keep doing the job we have been doing. Or we could say it’s time for change and step aside to allow a new vision to emerge. This is a great opportunity for all the stakeholders in new play and playwright development to come together to identify what we need now and how it might look. I look forward to being a part of that process.”