Current recipients: the R E Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Awards

Exploring themes of madness, redemption and a grand adventure to find a pet snake, the 2014 winners of the R E Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Awards are Dan William Lee, Alexandra Macalister-Bills and Dan Giovannoni & Amelia Evans. Patricia Cornelius received a commendation.

A total of 47 plays were submitted for consideration for the 2014 awards. A new judging panel of five industry experts read and shortlisted the scripts for further discussion, based on the selection criteria of artistic merit, rationale for development and planning.

The following three winning scripts and one highly commended script were chosen. In addition to receiving prize money, the winners have the opportunity to stage rehearsed readings in front of a live audience in the Flashpoint series at the State Library of Victoria and fortyfivedownstairs.

Bottomless by Dan William Lee

Seamlessly integrating cultural and political content, Dan Lee tells the tale of Will, a once-desperate alcoholic who returns to Broome with a radical plan to break the cycle of booze, madness, crime and incarceration. Providing the Australian stage with a glimpse into a rarely seen world, Bottomless features genuinely funny, convincing characters who are aware of and alive to life's possibilities and opportunities.

Dan was brought up in Melbourne and recently returned to his hometown after spending five years in Broome in northern Western Australia. Before leaving for WA, he hosted spoken-word and comedy nights around Melbourne and appeared in several one-man shows for the Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festival. While living in Broome he fronted the Cable Bitches, a glam punk band. Since his return to Melbourne in October 2013, he has been working on plays and other writing for performance.

In addition to winning an R E Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Award, Dan has also been invited to attend a Playwriting Australia National Script Development Workshop.

Peripheral damage by Alexandra Macalister-Bills

For 37 hours, Sam and Kip have been stuck on one side of the door; Beans is on the other side, and there's been no contact. Sam and Kip don’t know what to do. Coaxing and threatening, kicking the door down – nothing works. As they become more and more desperate, Sam and Kip begin to slip sideways into the black hole that Beans left behind. Inventive and with a strong regional voice, Peripheral damage looks beyond the epicentre of mental illness among the young and questions who hurts most when sanity falls away.

Currently based in Melbourne, Alexandra is the Program Coordinator for the Arena Theatre Company and General Manager of the literary anthology Going down swinging. Her work has been read at Courthouse Arts and produced as part of the Australian Theatre for Young People’s show, The one sure thing. She is a graduate of ATYP’s Fresh Ink Mentoring Program and National Studio for emerging playwrights. The first draft of Peripheral damage was written as part of the 4x4 Geelong Fresh Ink Mentoring Program 2013.

Mad as a cute snake by Dan Giovannoni & Amelia Evans

Mad as a cute snake follows the journey of Cardigan Coriander-Turner on her epic ride from suburban Melbourne to the Daintree and beyond in order to save Trix, the family’s pet snake. Cardigan’s mother is world-famous cabaret sensation/adventurer Kiki Coriander and her father is Olympic fencing champion turned fence-fixer James Turner. Cardigan has taken her parents' belief that you can be anything you want to be literally, deciding to be a little boy who’s also a superhero, with three sisters, 17 aunts and two pet dolphins. Genuinely entertaining and insightful, this play from two very strong writers features consistently inventive storytelling and wild humour that celebrates the joy of imagination.

NIDA graduates Amelia Evans and Dan Giovannoni are award-winning playwrights and dramaturgs from Melbourne. Together with their collaborators, they’ve created and widely toured The myth project: twin and Waltzing Wolloomooloo: the tale of Frankie Jones. Amelia’s plays include Lyrebird, A hypnic trip and The saturated world. Dan's plays include Wrecking and Two by two, and he has worked as a guest artist with Back to Back and Theatre of Speed. He is currently a Red Stitch Writer, developing his new play Jurassica.

Commendation: Patricia Cornelius

The panel would also like to highly commend SHIT by Patricia Cornelius, a ferocious portrayal of utterly damaged women without hope. Written with a mature voice and displaying mastery of language, it is a hard-hitting play about misogyny and violence towards women, of brutalisation begetting brutalisation.

A playwright, novelist, film writer and dramaturg, Patricia Cornelius is a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre. She has been the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including a fellowship from the Theatre Board of the Australia Council, the 2012 Patrick White Fellowship, 2014 Victorian Premier’s drama award, 2011 Victorian and NSW Premier’s literary awards, 2006 Patrick White Playwright’s Award, 2009 Richard Wherrett Prize, 2003 Wal Cherry Award and the Jill Blewitt Award. She has written more than 25 plays, earning her ten Awgies for stage, community, theatre for young people and feature film adaptation. Her most recent works are Big heart, Savages, Do not go gentle..., Slut, Love and The call.