MELBOURNE WRITERS’ THEATRE develops original Australian plays in:

Six Degrees at a Hot Melbourne Market

By Adèle Shelley

 It has been a privilege to be involved with Melbourne Writers’ Theatre signature show over the past two years – as a writer and co-director of Six Degrees in Melbourne in 2018, and as a script selector for this year’s production of Six Degrees in a Hot Melbourne Market, currently showing at Gasworks Theatre.

The Six Degrees concept began in 2017. Keen to include a short play season in the company’s growing repertoire, Clare Mendes (Company Manager) came up with the idea of presenting an annual showcase of original short plays inspired by iconic Melbourne locations. This year, the inspiration for the season is the Queen Victoria Market.

MWT’s membership includes playwrights of all levels of experience, from the very new to the highly credentialled. Six Degrees provides an opportunity for all of them to submit an original short play in response to a brief. Importantly, all scripts must be submitted anonymously so that the selector can read the plays blind, before using pre-determined criteria to curate a diverse collection of new plays for production. This anonymous process helps to ensure that the scripts are selected according to their worth and potential, rather than because of a selector’s knowledge of a playwright’s previous work or reputation.

Excitingly, this is just the first step of MWT’s process. After the selection of scripts in mid-June each year, the successful writers then receive multiple opportunities to further develop their new plays en route to their presentation in the Six Degrees season in November. The development process includes receiving personal feedback from the script selector, as well as recommendations from the directors for the further enhancement of the scripts. Perhaps most valuable is the chance for writers to attend an early reading of their plays with directors and actors. This is a wonderful opportunity for writers to see and hear the potential magic in the performed play, and to collaborate with theatre professionals to best enable it to be realized.

As with any collaboration, the experience inevitably becomes tailored and unique, depending on the nature of each play, as well as the combination of people involved. Writers may have additional opportunities to attend rehearsals to tweak their dialogue, but as with all theatre, they ultimately have to learn to surrender their work and allow the actors and directors to interpret their words, along with the audience who will co-create the live experience.

As a vehicle for developing and honing the playwright’s craft, MWT’s annual Six Degrees season provides a level and equitable playing field in which both established playwrights and fresh voices have the same opportunity to showcase their talent. At a time when some of Australia’s peak playwriting bodies are grappling with challenges posed by funding cuts, it is good to know that grass-roots organisations such as MWT are continuing to bring new Australian works, and playwrights, to life with productions such as Six Degrees.

opened on 13th November and will finish on 23rd November.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park

Details and tickets: