Playwright makes dramatic impact

Racial stereotypes were taken for a ride when 14 young playwrights from non-English-speaking backgrounds performed their own works recently.


Among the works performed at the 2012 Multicultural Writers and Playwright Program performance showcase was 'The Station'.

The play by Filip Stempien, of Sir Joseph Banks High School, explored misunderstood stereotypes through characters caught on a train which is delayed at Bankstown station.

At a glance it is easy to make assumptions, but Filip and his cast proudly unravelled their pride in a suburb that is too often judged for the wrong reasons.

The performance showcase followed a series of workshops that started in June, where students developed their English language, literacy, expression and performance skills.

Each playwright had developed a script so unique and marvellous - the performances were equally inspiring and harrowing.

Students studied storytelling, play building, script writing, characterisation and directing and were supported throughout the process by industry professionals.

Each play ran for between five and 10 minutes and was cast with students from each director's school.

Khoa Do (Young Australian of the Year 2005) was a special guest at one of the workshops. He spoke about his journey to Australia and his success in film making and working with young people.

After his address, each of the playwrights and actors performed their plays in a directing master class.

"All of the students worked hard with their drama and ESL teachers to refine their plays for the performance showcase. Each playwright had developed a script so unique and marvellous - the performances were equally inspiring and harrowing," said project coordinator, Lisa Gourlay.

Ghada Ali, a year 11 student from Moorefield Girls High School created a play that also exploited cultural stereotypes, but in a comedic way.  She and her cast hosted a mock live TV game show, 'My Stereotypes Rule' resulting in a clever and very funny play.

The mood changed with a breathtaking performance by Badi Khamis (17) from Canterbury Boys High School.  Badi was born in Mombasa, Kenya and moved to Australia in 2010.

His autobiographical play 'Mistaken' traced the lives and love of three teenagers in Kenya.

Eliya Kasongo (The Jannali High School) shared a Congolese fairy tale that had been passed down to him from generations of family storytelling and Lana Moh'd's (Macarthur Girls High School) play 'Running to Freedom' was selected for the State Drama Festival held recently at the Seymour Centre.

Macarthur Girls High School teacher Priscilla Jackman said the program was an "excellent initiative and beautifully orchestrated".

"I feel the experience was extraordinarily beneficial for all students involved (including the 30 audience members we brought from Year 9 drama), but especially from a welfare perspective for one student in particular. Through our workshops and rehearsals, we have been able to understand the darkness that has been her reality - and in doing so recognise her loss - (and help) support her with it ... I feel the creative process has been instrumental in supporting her in the beginning of her healing journey."

The Multicultural Writers and Playwright Program was an Arts Unit initiative.

The 10 high schools that took part were: Canterbury Boys, Chester Hill, Concord, Kogarah, Liverpool Girls, Macarthur Girls, Lurnea, Moorefield Girls, Sir Joseph Banks and The Jannali High School.

Photo by Andrew Lasky


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