New theatrical development initiative launched amidst COVID crisis

Australia’s arts industry has suffered the lowest of blows over the last few weeks, with almost all theatrical productions shutting down or postponing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and newly implemented mass gathering restrictions. Mainstage, independent, fringe, and even community theatre have all suffered at the hands of the outbreak, with many out of a job for the foreseeable future.

But once again, the artists have come to save the day. Shining a brilliant beacon of light into the seemingly bleak tunnel of darkness is Hope. New Work Development Initiative.

Facilitated by James Millar (Matilda, The Lady In The Van), the initiative aims to workshop new musicals and plays of Australian creatives, many of which lost their development. Hope. New Work Development Initiative will enable writers to connect with artists, creatives, and production teams online throughout this quarantine period (and beyond) to culminate into a full workshopped performance of their work. So far, a fabulous group of writers have been assembled to have their work presented.

The inaugural season will include:

  • Princess by Luke Heath
  • The (M)other Life by Ami Day
  • The Mentor by Josh White
  • Esther by Michael Riggs
  • Tickets Please by Paul Morrison
  • The Lorelei and The Siren by Geoff Wallis with Catie Spears
  • Gold by Jess New and Lindenfelzer
  • Coburg, Melbourne by Michael Bingham and Nicholas Gentile
  • Beau Wants To Be A Billionaire by Peele and Neylon
  • Conversations With Berlin by Jessie Monk

The (M)other life is set to be the first, with Amanda Harrison, Natalie O’Donnell, Jennifer Vuletic, and Samm Hagen to perform; Jamie Burgess on keys, and Petra Kalive to direct. This reading is set to be broadcast from the newly built Palais Theatre in Geelong.

“It’s crushing for the entire business from established and slated shows to new creative work, hoping for an airing,” said James. “I found people with workshops and new ventures for first airings that they had lost. And just put it in a new format for it to still be presented. Everyone is doing this only to exercise their creative muscles and help grow something in a time where we can do that together. This isn’t a me venture. It’s just something to help creative spirit survive. Because no virus should kill that in creative people.”

Each workshopped reading will be streamed online, enabling both those within the industry and those outside to enjoy and celebrate the creation of new Australian work.

Aussietheatre will keep readers updated about this exciting new venture as more information is released.

More details can be found at

Anyone interested in joining the initiative in any capacity should email James at [email protected]

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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