Thursday, February 27, 2014

“Stella for Star”: the 2014 Stella Wilkie Award

FORMER Canberra theatre director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, has emailed overnight to tell us of the results in the second year of “the Stella,” (the Stella Wilkie award), named after one of the late actor, writer and Member of the Canberra Critics’ Circle, Stella Wilkie.

Luke Taylor, Photo Nicholas Dawkes

The single award this year has gone to East 15 Acting School honours graduate, Luke Taylor, for his original play, “A*”, set in his hometown,  Newcastle upon Tyne.

The play is described as follows: “In Newcastle, a desperate mother tries to reach her glitter sprinkled past through her son’s future…We are all in drag, in one way or another, it’s just that not everyone chooses a feather boa…”

On learning of his win yesterday, Taylor said, “I am delighted to have won this award, giving me the chance to further develop and restage my debut play 'A*'. To see a play I am so passionate about receive recognition within the industry is a humbling honour, and I am filled with excitement about the future of this story and how it will grow with the brilliant opportunity The Stella Wilkie Award has provided for it.”

Spreadbury-Maher, who was deeply saddened by the death in January last year of Wilkie, who had mentored  and encouraged him,  established the award in her name, in which new plays at  East 15’s annual  Debut Festival, would be judged w and  the possibility of a further season.

The inaugural winning play was “Sandpits Avenue and the runner-up was “League of St George”. Both were performed at the King's Head Theatre in a double-bill on Monday 25 March 2013 and both were then performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2013, and transferred to open The Hope Theatre, which Spreadbury-Maher also directs, in November 2013.
Stella Wilkie

Last year in naming the award, he said, "I can see no better project than East 15's Debut Festival to name after Stella. This award is about what she dedicated her life to. Celebrating and nurturing raw talent is what she loved doing, so long may her spirit continue with this and the excellent work made by East 15 and the King's Head Theatre".

This year he  was able to negotiate a higher profile judging panel, headed by himself and London-based American playwright, Martin Sherman, whose most famous work, “Bent,” portrayed the persecution of homosexuals in Hitler’s Germany. As well, the committee 2014 comprises David Mercatali, (associate director, Southwark Playhouse) Mary Franklin, (resident director, Hope Theatre), Yasmin Zadeh, (last year’s winner - producer/actress) Nika Obydzinski, (literary manager, King's Head & Hope Theatres and David Luff (Producer, Soho Theatre). Robin Norton-Hale (Associate Director, King's Head Theatre) was also a judge, though she has read the scripts and reported from a literary perspective.

Spreadbury-Maher said he hoped that in years to come “the award will grow and allow the winner a longer run at the King’s Head and an even bigger platform.

The British-born Wilkie would be tickled pink.