‘The play I’m working on is about escapism, hope and play,’ Emme Hoy says. ‘It’s what I’ve been craving seeing this year while theatres have been closed. It’s theatrical and gleeful, and I want audiences to walk out of the theatre smiling and feeling empowered.’
Did you always want to be a playwright?
I always wanted to be a writer, but for most of my growing-up I imagined I’d be a novelist. But when I look back now on my stories, it’s funny to see that the dialogue always seems to be dominating. So I think I was always a writer for performance, I just didn’t know it.
When I was 17, I went to my first playwriting class – an adult course that Griffin Theatre was running at night in Kings Cross in Sydney – with Hilary Bell teaching. I remember how special it felt to be part of this very small group of adult playwrights; and how difficult I found it … I’d never had so much trouble telling a story before. I loved the challenge and the bag of tricks you need to start stockpiling as a playwright to make dialogue work. It was so technical and exposing, but also so freeing. I made friends with a group of people in the course, and we put our plays on in the Sydney Fringe Festival, which was my first ever credit!
‘There’s something magical and incredibly privileged about sitting in a room of people who are actually listening to or interreacting with something you’ve written.’
I remember my 18th birthday happening while we were rehearsing in the upstairs room of The World Bar, and everyone making jokes about me actually being able to drink legally after rehearsals … I didn’t, because I had a crush on one of the actors … and was terrified to be in the same room as any of them. Nevertheless, from that point, it was history. I did pretty much every short course on playwriting I could find in Sydney; and when I came first in the English Extension 2 HSC it was the final push I needed to work up the courage to admit I wanted to pursue writing seriously.
What is it about writing, and playwriting in particular, that inspires you?
I think I was initially interested in playwriting because it was like a puzzle that I wanted to figure out. It also allowed me to play with language in a way that I’d never been able to before, except in (bad) poetry. Once I started to actually see my work staged, I got addicted to the collaborative nature of it, and to hearing words out loud. There’s something magical and incredibly privileged about sitting in a room of people who are actually listening to or interreacting with something you’ve written. I always feel shocked that anyone would take the time to listen and am so aware that the audience’s time is a gift they give you – it’s something I’m always trying to repay.
What other sorts of writing, if any, do you do?
I write quite a bit for TV, where my work often sits in a dark-comedy zone. I think the darker and sadder and rawer you get, the higher you can go in relief. I’m also working on an animation script and an audio-play. Maybe it’s another challenge for me, but I’m really interested in storytelling forms that aren’t constrained in any way by visuals. I definitely also have one or two unfinished novels sitting in a folder on my desktop, but I don’t think they need to see the light of day (ever).
What does being a NEXT STAGE writer-in-residence at MTC mean to you, personally?
I remember the year the NEXT STAGE residency was first announced, the buzz about it among my friends, and how desperately I wanted to be a part of it. I think I’ve applied for it every single year submissions were open; so to get the interview and the call that I’d been given a spot was something I’ll never forget. It was an opportunity I’d wanted for a long time. I felt like a door was opening and my work was being looked at in a different way.
‘Being a writer-in-residence helps prepare writers to write the works that we need on stage, as well as to write works that hopefully will get on our stages! ’
I also felt incredibly humbled and honoured, because I know exactly how fierce the competition is. There are so many brilliant writers in Australia, and so many who deserve a chance to be a writer-in-residence. Sometimes it can feel like we’re all fighting for the same opportunities, and that there simply aren’t enough.
Why are such opportunities important?
Programs like this are incredibly vital because they give writers the time and space to write; a security net which lets them experiment and write ambitious plays; as well as a chance to get to know a company and its artists and to wrap their heads around the unique forces that shape programming decisions. Being a writer-in-residence helps prepare writers to write the works that we need on stage, as well as to write works that hopefully will get on our stages! These programs are so vital to supporting the next generation of Australian writers, and it’s for all of those reasons that I’m so grateful the program exists.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be working on, and what you hope to achieve, during your residency?
The play I’m working on is a bit of a reaction to the year we’ve just had, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. It’s about escapism, hope and play … and it’s what I’ve been craving seeing this year while theatres have been closed. It’s theatrical and gleeful, and I want audiences to walk out of the theatre smiling and feeling empowered.
It’s based on the forgotten work of a very well-known writer, and has a very unhistorical, very irreverent twist. While it’s a bit of a caper on the surface, underneath it’s about a person overcoming the most insane odds, and never giving up, no matter what insanity the world throws at them – which feels like a quintessentially Australian underdog story to me … and extremely relevant right now. It’s exactly the kind of world I want to be spending time writing about this year. One filled with hope and playfulness, but with a rebellious, stubborn heart.
NEXT STAGE is made possible with the support of our Playwrights Giving Circle Donors, The Ian Potter Foundation, Naomi Milgrom Foundation, The Myer Foundation, Malcolm Robertson Foundation and The University of Melbourne.
Published on 26 October 2020