9 First Peoples Theatre Makers Making Their Mark
As we look ahead to National Reconciliation Week, TodayTix is celebrating some of the incredibly talented First Peoples artists who are making their mark on Australian arts scene.
A true creative force, with huge impact across all of Australia’s performing arts industries, Maza is not only an acclaimed actor (“Radiance,” “The Sapphires”) and director (“Stolen,” “Black Ties” at Sydney Festival), but also an artistic director (Ilbijerri Theatre Company), acting coach (“Rabbit Proof Fence”), dramaturg, and more. On top of this, her vast contribution to the cultural landscape has been recognised by the many awards she has won, including the Australia Council of the Arts Award for Theatre, and an Honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from Edith Cowan University, both in 2019 – and then received an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the 2020 Australia Day Honours.
A Murri man, Nash graduated from NIDA’s Design Course, and has become one of Australia’s most awarded set designers. Acclaimed for his work in dance (including many for Bangarra including “of earth & sky,” “Bennelong,” (receiving the Helpmann Award for Best Scenic Design) and “Dark Emu,” he is now their Head of Design), theatre (“Macbeth” for Bell Shakespeare, “The Removalists” for Sydney Theatre Company), television (“Cleverman”) and film (“Spear”), he has also written and directed his own short film, “Blood Lines.”
Celebrated as both a playwright and an artistic director, Enoch’s tenure as the artistic director of the Sydney Festival since 2017 is just the latest in a long and acclaimed career. It has also seen him helming and guiding many of Australia’s leading theatre companies including Ilbijerri Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative and Queensland Theatre Company, and shepherding many new First Nations works to the stage. His final Sydney Festival in 2021 will be entirely Australian work.
Widely heralded for flipping the dinner party theatrical trope in “Black Is the New White,” Lui has continued to dazzle with her other works like “Blackie Blackie Brown,” “Kill the Messenger,” “How to Rule the World,” and as a co-creator of SBS’s “Black Comedy.” This Gamilaroi/Torres Strait Islander is an actor, writer, and comedian, plus an advocate and social media star to boot.
Having achieved so much as a writer for both stage and screen (including both writing, directing, and producing “The Season,” which won best production at the 2018 Green Room Awards), it is easy to forget his many years’ experience as a dancer in schools and communities. A Pakana/Palawa man from Lutrawita/Tasmania he is currently the Belvoir Balnaves Foundation Fellow, which will see the development of his new work.
Howard Lawrence Sumner
Side by side with his long career as an actor, director and teacher, this Ngarrindjeri man has had a long playwriting career. His play about four generations of a family and the return of ancestral bones in “The Long Forgotten Dream” was a hit for Sydney Theatre Company, nominated for multiple awards including 4 Helpmann Awards. His latest play “The Hollow Queen” was a finalist for the coveted Lysicrates Prize.
When she’s not stealing the show with another hilarious performance (as she did in Belvoir’s “The Rover” and Sydney Theatre Company’s “Blackie, Blackie Brown” and “Banging Denmark”), this Gamilaroi woman and Balnaves Award-winning playwright flipped audience expectations on their head with her play “A Little Piece of Ash” — a play about a straight-talking millennial reckoning with her mother’s death – and her own guilt.
Starting her career as an actor (“The Sapphires,” “Redfern Now”) this Bardi, Jabirr-Jabirr woman was announced in 2019 as the new Richard Wherrett Fellow at Sydney Theatre Company. Shari was due to make her directing debut with a reimagining of Deb Mailman and Wes Enoch’s “The Seven Stages of Grieving” until the COVID crisis struck. We hope to still see it in 2021!
One of Australia’s most prolific and awarded actresses (“Top End Wedding,” “Devil’s Dust”), Yovich turned her hand to writing a decade ago with her cabaret “Magpie Blues” but her rock ’n’ roll road movie musical “Barbara and the Camp Dogs” stormed the 2019 Helpmann Awards. She’s currently on our screens in the ABC series “Mystery Road.”