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First Nations writers make their mark at New Play Awards

Rhiannon Clarke -

The Australian Theatre Festival, an annual celebration of Australian stories and artists in New York city, has awarded First Nations writer Wendy Mocke second place for her story Realish.

The story follows Stella, who is having a very bad day. She has barricaded herself inside her apartment, and all she wants is to be left alone with her thoughts. The problem is Stella's thoughts keep talking back to her and they've bought KFC.

Realish has been described as a wild comedy about dealing with the outside world by looking within.

"What an insane joy and an honour to be the runner up for the 2023 New Play awards…I am grateful for this...It's a hard slob for writers, so these opportunities remind us that maybe our crazy words might just mean something," said Ms Mocke in an NPA youtube video.

"I wrote Realish as a means to explore the life saving qualities, the humour, the fury, the sheer love that exist within black friendships, I know my black friendships have saved my life in more ways than I can begin to express.

Runner up Wendy Mocke.(Image: supplied by Australian Theater Festival instagram.)

"I also wrote Realish to celebrate black women, not only in their abilities to carry their own communities on their backs, but to also celebrate them in the moments when they falter and fall and allow themselves to live in their softness."

Ms Mocke comes from Papua New Guinea. She recalled that although their home might be small in size the people are strong and mighty.

She is a playwright, screenwriter and a NIDA acting graduate. Some of her plays have been in development programs at Melbourne Theater Company, Queensland Theater Company and Darlinghurst Theater Company.

One of Ms Mocke's quests as an artist is to make alive what is quiet and asleep in Melanesian stories and unpack the myriad of Layers within Black Islander identity.

"I would like to extend my deep sense of gratitude towards the First Nation mob, I feel privileged to tell stories and take part in the oldest storytelling tradition," she said.

"Pacific Islanders, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders…we have slept under the same stars, sailed across the ocean and we share and understand more ways than one that we are family."

Another Indigenous writer who made it to the finals was Bronte Gosper.

The name of her story is Yiraway (Mirage), a tragicomedy that delves into the perils and comforts of settler Australia's illusions, set itself in the realm of theatre.

Finalist Bronte Gosper. (Image: supplied by Australian Theater Festival instagram.)

As a "well-meaning" white director stages a play that distorts and romanticises colonisation, Dora, a young Wiradjuri woman in the cast, observes the unfolding spectacle while trying to keep afloat in her tumultuous home life.

"Yiraway" invites the audience to confront the often performative nature of care towards Indigenous narratives, prompting amusing self-reflection in the face of such absurdity and inconsistency.

Bronte Gosper is a documentary filmmaker, playwright and actress. She recently graduated with her MA from Columbia University and is interested in the intersections of oral history and theatre, especially as it relates to Indigenous art-making.

She performed in last year's ATF in Hannah Belansky's Don't Ask What the Bird Look Like. Her recent documentary entitled 'The Everywhen' will be screened soon right here in Manhattan. She is a proud Wiradjuri woman.

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