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In a new initiative, Playlab welcomed Kathryn Marquet as our 2017 Playwright-in-Residence. The focus of her time with Playlab was on the creation of The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek. To achieve this, Playlab provided a fee to allow Kathryn to allocate more time to her writing and access to continual dramaturgical guidance. As part of the residency, Kathryn took on a mentoring role with young playwright Hannah Balanszky, and additional employment as a tutor for some of Playlab’s professional development activities.

As it currently stands, Playlab can only support one playwright a year through this program. It is our intention to expand this initiative to more playwrights per year, but we need support to do this. If you are in a position to be able to help, please donate here.

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What compels you to write?

“I usually get a strong image in my mind of a scene, a moment, a character, and that drives me to think about the idea a lot and start to form a story.  Alternatively, I get pretty worked up about injustice - particularly environmental injustice - so I often write out of intense frustration and sadness with the world.” 

What is your favourite artwork?

“There is a surrealist painter called Bernard Louedin. His work is stunningly beautiful, but thoughtful too - he examines our relationship with animals, with things, with the earth.  I love many of his artworks.”

What do you as an artist stand for?

“I worry we're moving into another 'dark age' where science and reason are dismissed in exchange for fear and ignorance. It makes me livid. It keeps me up at night. So, I stand for science, but not blindly. I try to see the world in as many greys as I can, rather than black and white. I try to demonstrate this kind of thinking in my plays. I also judge people by how they treat others, not what their gender or sexuality or ethnicity or religion or clothes size is.

I think, maybe, if I can do some small good - if I can change someone's mind - through my writing, then I am contributing to the small actions of those all around the globe who desperately seek change.  The world seems absurd to me: we're in a burning building and we're standing around the water coolers, looking at Facebook.  In theatre, there's a lot of conversation about social and domestic issues - violence, racism, diversity etc, but, in general, the science and arts have been strangely separated and theatre doesn't engage with science as often as it could. I think it's important that artists try to help the push towards reason and enlightenment and an understanding of what 'evidence' actually is. We all have a role to play."  

What art do you most identify with?

“Art that makes me feel like I've been punched. Art that has a cathartic - deep - response in me. I remember seeing the reading of Marcel Dorney's Fractions at QTC. I couldn't speak for some time after. It made me want to weep like a child. That's the best art.

I also like art that's ambitious - where new inventions are made, and where artists say, "This is hard, but we're going to do it" - such as Dead Puppet Society's The Wider Earth, which was an epic love serenade to nature. Fail or fly, I say. Mediocrity is the worst.”  

Professionally, what’s your goal?

“I want to work at the top level, with people I admire and respect. I want to push myself and challenge myself. I would like to earn enough money to be able to not live in poverty. That would be nice. But, you know what? Mostly, I just want peace, and I only find peace when I'm working.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Oh, that's difficult because there are so many. Hemingway said: "Write clear and hard about what hurts". I think that about sums it up.”

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Playlab’s Young Playwright-in-Residence program is a year-long mentorship for one young Queensland based playwright who is offered: dramaturgical support from our Playwright-in-Residence Kathryn Marquet, professional guidance from Playlab’s Artistic Director Ian Lawson and access to Playlab’s resources.

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Meet Hannah Balanszky our 2017 Young Playwright-in-residence, during her time at Playlab she will be working on a text that answers the universal questions, ‘Where did I come from?’ and ‘Where am I going?’.  

To learn more about Hannah and the work that she is doing check out this interview:

What compels you to write?

I am compelled to write often by things I read, overhear or observe, people I know and stories I am told. It is through writing that I can try to make sense of the world that I am living in. I find it a challenge at times to appear present in some situations because I am mentally writing it all down! I think it all comes down to a need to communicate and share in experiences. I love to talk…most people who’ve met me will agree it is difficult to get me to stop once I’ve started…yet writing has become a welcome refuge in my life as another form of storytelling and expression.  

What has stood out to you so far from your meetings with Kathryn?

So far, our focus has been on the importance of being clear and specific about every single detail of the play. I’ve always had the tendency to just jump in and write scenes without knowing where they are even going (often scrapping them later when they aren’t right!) I’ve learnt that whilst organic, spur of the moment creation is wonderful and has its place, it definitely goes hand in hand with planning. In the end, this process will save time and ensure the scene is focussed and has a purpose in the larger scheme of the play. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Kathryn. I am loving being able to meet with another writer to discuss and develop a new play… as we all know, writing can be quite an isolating task! 

What is your favourite artwork?

When asked this question, I can’t not say my mother’s artwork because I know too well the back stories to the paintings she produces and the hard work that goes into her creative practice. Her contemporary Indigenous artwork: bold and magical, is important to me for it is a reflection of her, a person who never fails to inspire and support me. I think she is a rare person for she is so unabashedly herself. She is the ultimate dream-chaser!

What do you as an artist stand for?

When given the platform for your voice to be heard (or read) by others, I believe artists are obliged to be truthful, to use their voice wisely and to take the chance to say what everyone is thinking but not necessarily saying out loud. As an artist, but also just as a human being, I strive to be as genuine as possible. I think if you truly care about something and are really passionate about it, other people will connect with that honesty. It is the artist’s job to be observant, to break from the comfort of their private bubbles and to engage with the world around them. On a personal level, I believe it is my responsibility as an artist to always be working on my craft so that I am constantly growing while improving the quality and the boundaries of my work. I figure if something makes me nervous or a bit uncomfortable, I am probably on the right track! 

What’s your background?

I decided when I was six that I wanted to be an actor while watching The Sound of Music on stage, green with envy of the young girls performing.  I was very interested in writing short stories and poetry as a child but it didn't cross my mind until years later when I was completing my actor training that I would ever write for the stage. I was reading a lot, looking for monologues and audition material, and I found myself craving something outside of the repertoire of popular monologue choices. I was finding it quite difficult, as a young woman, to find many meaty characters in my age range. This started me thinking about writing my own material. I think my background as an actor definitely helps when I am writing as I consider how an actor might approach the text and whether I am leaving just enough clues for them. 

What art do you most identify with?

I enjoy reading journals as they are so personal. In particular, I really connected with the diaries of Anais Nin and was inspired by them to start journalling myself, which more or less lead to my playwriting. I started by writing whenever I was in any kind of heightened state because I felt that whatever came out would be uncensored. I was interested in what my language choices would be like when I wasn’t premeditating what I was going to write next.  What I love about the diaries of Anais Nin is how she can find meaning and passion in every single moment of her life, even the seemingly mundane. I definitely identified with her analytical nature. It was also interesting to read her journals as an accompaniment to her stories and essays, for their insight into her process as a writer and how her personal life was feeding into her work.

I love nothing more than sitting in some kind of moving vehicle and staring out the window while listening to music as my mind wanders. I find music a very powerful tool when I am writing and also performing for getting in the right headspace. 

Professionally, what’s your goal?

My goal is to be writing and performing in my own work on a professional level. I want to be involved in the creation of a piece as well as the performance of it but would love to be commissioned to write for others as well. I am interested in venturing overseas to train further at some stage. My aim is to keep moving, learning, feeding my soul and being challenged by the new and unfamiliar!

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