The five, all female Distell National Playwright Competition finalists for 2022, come from a variety of backgrounds. They include actors, journalists, and activists. One finalist is also a clown, who uses theatre to make sense of the human heart and its response to gender, identity, power, politics, the past, love, intrigue, and the mysteries of existence.
The five were selected from a record 245 entries, more than double the previous number, with submissions coming from every province in South Africa and in a variety of languages.
The award, established by Distell in 2018, is designed to recognise and reward new, and as yet unpublished scriptwriting talent. It is managed by the National Arts Festival.
Said National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton: “So many entries this year point to the wealth and variety of South African storytelling and scriptwriting talent. It also suggests a rising urgency to communicate that comes in the wake of the pandemic and the seismic universal societal changes that continue to force all of us to keep on questioning who we are, what we can expect from society and the roles demanded of us.
“The competition was founded to honour the creative legacy of Adam and Rosalie Small. They made an indelible contribution to South African literature, philosophy, and education, while advocating against social injustice. It keeps alive the spirit and integrity of their support for the arts.”
She said the five finalists would each receive a cash prize of R5 000 and the opportunity to be mentored by well-established playwrights to further develop their work for final assessment by the award’s judging panel. The winner, to be announced in October, would receive an additional R20 000 and would get an opportunity to work with industry professionals in bringing their script to the stage. The winning work would debut at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (Grahamstown) in July 2023.
“After fine-tuning the script and preparing it for production, the winning work will go into extensive rehearsal to ensure a well-polished premier for an audience of theatre lovers and decisionmakers. Our hope is that after its showcasing at the National Arts Festival, the work will go on to be staged at other venues around the country to reach as wide as possible an audience,” Newton explained.
The most recent winner of the Distell Playwright of the Year was Amy Louise Wilson. She was mentored by Mike van Graan.