Company B got it wrong

Company B got it 100 per cent wrong when they awarded Caleb Lewis the Philip Parsons Young Playwright’s Award on Sunday.

Company B got it 100 per cent wrong when they awarded Caleb Lewis the Philip Parsons Young Playwright’s Award on Sunday.

It was the latest element in a rather strange theatre story that has dominated the back end of the year, all started by former writer Joanna Erskine, who questioned where the women were in Company B’s 2010 season.

Most know the rest of the story and the reasons behind Caleb Lewis’ decision to withdraw from the competition.

In my opinion, announcing Lewis as a winner last night undermined the whole process, hurt the prospects of the other winners and further clouded Company B’s position on the situation they currently face.

The argument that the decision had already been made before Lewis withdrew is a non-point.

Change the decision – it’s as simple as that.

Caleb Lewis decided to withdraw from the competition and that, quite simply, should be his loss. Whether he was right or wrong to do what he did (and personally I think he probably went a little bit over the top), he decided he did not want to take part in the competition and Company B should have adhered to that message.

The $10,000 prize is now split – why should Tahli Corin suffer? Why shouldn’t she get the full $10,000 – why should half of it go to somebody who has already quite clearly said they don’t want it?

In my view the whole story is something of a non-event. Company B surely did not set about to deliberately feature male-dominated playwrights and directors in the 2010 season. The bigger story here is whether or not enough quality plays were submitted by women – do we have a girl drought in the writing world?

Company B should change their minds today – issue a statement saying that given Lewis is not interested in winning the award, the $10,000 will instead go to Tahli Corin. It’s the fair thing to do.

Company B produce some wonderful theatre. It is one of the best – if not the best – theatre companies in the country. But on this issue, they got it 100 per cent wrong and should withdraw Lewis’ prizemoney.

Interestingly enough, on her blog last night, Joanna Erskine was happy enough with the Lewis announcement. She made the very valid point that Company B obviously see merit in Lewis’ play, and don’t want it to slip through their fingers.

In essence, Lewis has been given a second chance. But on what condition? If he takes the money, he looks a little like a hypocrite. If he doesn’t, he misses out on a wonderful opportunity.

Either way, whether the second opportunity should have arisen is a questionable one indeed.

For those interested, you can read Joanna Erskine’s views on her blog here.

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