Cybec Electric 2017 in rehearsal

Feature | Searching for Ambition

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This week, Cybec Electric takes over the Lawler with readings of new works from nine emerging playwrights, presented to an audience for the first time.

The fundamental purpose of Cybec Electric is to find the talent that already exists in Melbourne and shine a spotlight on it. MTC Literary Director Chris Mead is responsible for discovering, developing and mentoring Cybec Electric playwrights, and says his aim when selecting writers for the program is to look for work that is thrilling, challenging, provocative, funny, and raw.

‘We want to ensure that we have the very best plays from the very best playwrights,’ Chris says, ‘It’s about building genuine relationships with artists who we think could easily be working here, whose work we could genuinely program. In the end that’s the fundamental criteria. Could we, should we, be doing these plays in a year or two’s time?’

Each play selected for the series receives an intensive development workshop with Chris, a director and actors, culminating in a public reading in the Lawler. An internship program has been developed alongside these workshops to provide a platform for artists to build professional networks; carving real pathways for theatre makers establishing their careers.

‘We want to be a place for playwrights and for artists. Of course we’ve got loads of artists working in scenic art and working in props and making wigs and making hats … MTC is an extraordinary company for artisans. But, at the heart of what we do is the playwriting. And we’ve got to do everything we can to get the best out of our playwrights…[to] set a higher standard for Australian writing and international playwriting in general.’

Chris says the main criteria to consider when he’s reading through hundreds of scripts to find writers and plays for the program is, ‘Does this person have ambition?’

‘There’s no kind of rule about the topic. What I’m fundamentally looking for is ambition. We can work on skill but they’ve got to have ambition to tell a story and share an argument with an audience.’

‘It’s about that meeting of ambition and talent, and us being able to give playwrights the opportunity and backing they need,’ Chris says. ‘We want to continue a relationship with all the playwrights that come through Cybec, because we love to see their work on stage.’

Playwriting remains a core purpose of MTC as a theatre company. ‘It’s a core belief that we have to take time with the troubling dramatist,’ Chris says, ‘The Company is more porous than people think. Cybec Electric is a reminder that we don’t [have anything] without the writer.’

2017 will see Cybec Electric partner with Asia TOPA, the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, to celebrate our finest Asian-Australian playwrights from Thursday 23 February to Saturday 25 February at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler.

Cybec Electric is generously supported by Dr Roger Riordan AM and The Cybec Foundation. You can see the full list of plays, learn about the playwrights and purchase tickets here.

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