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Indigenous director Guy Simon backed by major theatre fellowship for new work

Jarred Cross -

Ahead of being honoured with a major fellowship grant and residency at one of Australia's leading stage companies, Birripi, Worimi, Waddi Waddi and Walbunga actor and director, Guy Simon almost gave up on applying.

Last week, Simon was announced as the 2023 Balnaves Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow, promising $45,000 over the following 18 months to create a new work in residence at Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre.

Balnaves Foundation, founded by late arts philanthropist Niel Balnaves, has awarded the fellowship to First Nations creators annually since 2012.

Previous recipients include Ursula Yovich, Nakkiah Lui, Kodie Bedford, Megan Wilding and Thomas Weatherall.

The Fellowship is open to playwrights and directors to lead creation on new stageworks; either entirely new works, adaptations or through devised process.

For Simon, it almost didn't happen.

While touring Wesley Enoch's The Visitors with Sydney Theatre Company, a slip-up almost left Simon's application sitting in draft on his phone.

"I then stupidly lost my phone and my poor cast had to hear about it everyday," he said.

"I was a little defeated but had a few good people encouraged me, and light a fire underneath my butt to re-apply. I'm now extremely thankful to them that I did re-apply."

Guy Simon said he almost didn't submit his application for the Balnaves Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fellowship. (Image: supplied)

Simon's CV includes credits in television such as Redfern Now, Around the Block, The Wrong Girl, A Chance Affair and Wakefield, and stageworks The Visitors, The Tempest, Whitefella Yella Tree, My Brilliant Career and Belvoir's Jasper Jones, among others.

His new project finds inspiration from his upbringing in La Perouse, blending dark comedy and horror in the tale of a First Nations family unsettled by their house and its foundations in the history of the land it sits on, and the non-Indigenous family who next move in.

"I've been fortunate enough to watch a majority of the recipients of the Balnaves Fellowship's careers grow, from their first work up until now, and to say that I can be a part of this inspirational group of artists is really exciting to me," Simon said.

"It is a little daunting being the first Director to go through, but I'm really hungry for a new adventure and to level up my skills as an artist."

The Balnaves Foundation chief executive, Hamish Balnaves, said the organisation strongly believes in backing the next generation of First Nations artists and new works showcasing the diversity of stories the country can produce.

"Congratulations to Guy on being awarded the 2023 Balnaves Fellowship at Belvoir St Theatre, we are truly excited to see how he will use the Fellowship to further develop his creative work over the next 18 months," he said.

Both Simon, and last year's recipient, Dalara Williams - who is currently working on her play with Belvoir, will be joined by 2023 Balnaves Associate Artists Wiradjuri & Gamilaroi man Brendon Boney and Kalkadoon woman Abbie-lee Lewis for two week-long writing intensives at Belvoir.

Boney is a sound designer, composer, writer and performer, currently working on a new play unpacking brotherhood, inheritance and what it means to step into leadership roles.

Lewis is developing a contemporary re-telling of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and will refine her skills in and passions for directing and theatre making as associate artists.

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