In partnership with KXT, with support from PYT Fairfield, The Monologue Collective pilot writing program engaged 10 young writers to create monologues for students to perform for the HSC Drama Individual Performance, giving access to material that better reflects a teenager’s lived experience.
Supported by Create NSW’s Arts and Cultural Funding Program (Individual Project Funding), The Monologue Collective delivered multiple outcomes, engaging and developing the next generation of theatre professionals and bridging the gap between young emerging writers and publication.
Create NSW caught up Laneikka Denne, the young playwright behind the project, to learn more.
Tell us about the inspiration for The Monologue Collective. Where did your idea spring from?
The Monologue Collective was born out of the second COVID lockdown. I had just finished my HSC Drama exam the year prior, and I really struggled to find a monologue for someone in my age group that felt authentic to any sort of experience that me or my friends could relate to at the time. I decided to fix this issue by creating The Monologue Collective, a program where 10 young writers developed 6-8-minute monologues for HSC drama students to use for their individual performances. It’s been amazing, at 19 years old, to have been able to run and produce such an incredible program from my brain to the stage, supported by Create NSW.
How did you find your 10 writers?
Accessibility is a huge issue within the theatre industry, especially for younger diverse kids who haven’t had their voices represented. Theatre, as an artform, can be quite ageist and elitist. I conducted an online open call out through local youth groups and social media platforms to find any teenagers who were interested in writing and had a unique perspective. All they had to do was tell me (either visually, written, verbally) why their voice and perspective was important to hear. We didn’t focus on ensuring we hit ‘diversity’ criteria boxes but by having an easily accessible application process we ended up with kids who identified as living in Western Sydney, living with disability and mental illness, CaLD and part of the LGBTIQ+SB community. They were chosen not because of their identifiers but because their stories ended up being the most fascinating and urgent.
The process of writing the monologues was a year-long process, right? Was it an easy process, or did you find it challenging to achieve what you set out to do?
The prospect of writing such a lengthy monologue can be daunting for any writer. The aim was to stretch out the definition of a monologue which can be predominately white, cis and Eurocentric in its structure. I wanted the writers to be able to explore multidisciplinary work and to truly tell their stories with honesty.
For me, as a first-time, young program facilitator there was a lot of learning and exploration with how to provide the right tools to allow these writers to not only develop their monologue but also develop their writing skills and provide industry opportunities for their futures within theatre. I worked with dramaturge Riley Spadaro (musical theatre director) and Bernadette Fam (Malthouse Literary Manager) to develop a program where writers would be able to receive constant dramaturgical development and receive monthly workshops from established practitioners like Anchuli Felicia King (STC, Melbourne Theatre Company), Alana Valentine (Belvoir), Lewis Treston (STC), Ayeesha Ash (AD of Blackbird and TV writer for Stan) and many more.
What has been the outcomes of the project?
The Monologue Collective exceeded my expectations by a landslide. Originally, this was an unfunded idea that I had come up with in my bedroom. The program had the following success:
- Two sold out seasons at Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) and Shopfront Arts Co-Op to hundreds of HSC students
- A publishing deal with Play Lab Australia with hardcopies of the book now in over 100 schools and libraries across NSW
- Two OnSTAGE nominations, showcasing 2023 HSC students who have used the monologues written by the writers. (Held in February at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, the OnSTAGE program features exemplary group and individual performances, script writing and video drama by HSC Drama students)
- A Sydney Theatre Award Nomination for Best Production by Young People
- Industry placements for two of the writers
https://www.nsw.gov.au/departments-and-agencies/create-nsw/news/stories/the-monologue-collective-interview Monologues rewrite the future of Australian theatre’s next generation