Local Canberra playwright and Palawa writer, Dylan Van Den Berg

Dylan is a Palawa writer/performer with family connections to the northeast of Tasmania.

09 July 2020

Local Canberra playwright and Palawa writer, Dylan Van Den Berg, has been awarded the 2020 Griffin Award for his play ‘way back when’.

Now in its 23rd year, the Griffin Award recognises an outstanding play or performance text that demonstrates an authentic, creative and contemporary Australian voice, with the winner receiving a $10,000 prize.

Set in a fictional post-colonial Tasmania, ‘way back when’ is a heartrending story that explores the resilience, enduring humanity, dignity and wit of four Aboriginal women in the face of Australian colonisation.

His play was also shortlisted for both the Patrick White Playwrights Award and the QLD Premier’s Drama Award. It is also currently being developed through Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Next in Line program.

In a first ever virtual awards ceremony, Dylan thanked the Griffin Theatre and spoke of his excitement, pride and admiration for his fellow writers.

“It is such an honour to be recognised alongside such brilliant writers I’ve admired from afar for a while now,” Dylan said. “I am completely thrilled, beyond excited, stunned!”

“To me, winning the Griffin Award means that there is a group of people who have responded to my work which is really thrilling as a writer. You send out work, but you don’t know where it will land so being recognised by a premiere theatre company is an important encouragement.”

A past recipient of the ACT Government Arts Activities funding and more recently HOMEFRONT funding to research and develop his new Indigenous play 'Apprehended', Dylan spoke of the lifeline that local government support provides to Canberran artists and creatives impacted by COVID-19.

“It will take a long time for the art industry to recover from COVID-19. We are fortunate in the ACT to have access to Government funding and support. The grants funded my inaugural play and first professional production.”

Dylan-working

In 2019, Dylan was selected to participate in Playwriting Australia’s masterclass with Patricia Cornelius.

Reflecting on how the pandemic had affected him personally, Dylan also spoke of recovery and optimism.

“For me, it has been a very difficult time with work postponed or cancelled completely and I’ve struggled to muster up inspiration to keep creating things,” said Dylan.

“The HOMEFRONT grant enabled me to keep working on my practice during a soul-destroying time. I did my first live streamed play reading which was an odd experience, but revealed new possibilities including collaboration with people geographically remote. There is an incredible support network out there for aspiring artists and creatives – seek out others, learn new crafts, don’t stop writing”.

As an actor, Dylan has also worked extensively in new Australian drama with The Street Theatre, Canberra Youth Theatre, Jigsaw Theatre Company and Gearstick Theatre.

Staged-Reading

Dylan doing a staged reading of his work ‘Milk’.

Dylan graduated from the ANU with a Bachelor of Arts (Drama) and trained in acting and improvisation at the State University of New York and Upright Citizens Brigade.

To find out about what ArtsACT is doing to support the Canberra arts sector during COVID-19, head to arts.act.gov.au/covid-19.

All Canberra

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