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2020 Adam NZ Play Award Winners Announced

Five new NZ plays take honours at the 2020 Adam NZ Play Awards.



PLAYMARKET is pleased to announce the ADAM NZ PLAY AWARD winner for 2020 is Jess Sayer for her play This Particular Room. The Adam NZ Play Award recognises and celebrates the best in new unproduced writing for the theatre.

Jess also won the award for Best Play by a Woman Playwright. She has previously been shortlisted for the Adam NZ Play Award twice for her plays Beautiful Coincidences and Speak.

This Particular Room charts the disintegration of an affair. Kate, married, refuses to leave her husband, but Max is tired of waiting. Judges described the play as “heartbreaking”, “excellently crafted” “powerful and sophisticated" and “so realistic that it hurts".

Jess Sayer is a multi-award-winning screenwriter, playwright and actor, whose work has been produced both locally and internationally. She has won the Playmarket b425 award three times (FixHanged and Elevator). In 2015 she won the prestigious Bruce Mason Playwriting Award and in 2017 was nominated for three SWANZ.  Her plays ElevatorWingsCrunchy Silk and Fix all had celebrated sell-out seasons at the Basement Theatre in Auckland. She has written and storylined for Filthy Productions (Dirty Laundry and Filthy Rich), South Pacific Pictures (Shortland StreetBad Seed 2Go GirlsStep Dave), and for Warner Brothers and Cinco Cine. She was the Head Writer of the hit Web Series Auckward Love. Jess has most recently been seen on stage in Mr Redlight at the NZ Festival and on television as Maeve Mullins in Shortland Street.

Siobhan Rosenthal was named Runner-Up for her brutal drama Blocked, in which an Auckland family with ties to Mongrel Mob comes to terms with their ongoing relationship to the gang. Siobhan is an award-winning writer whose work has been seen both nationally and internationally in publications such as New Zealand PoetryWorld Literature TodayHeadlandThe Times of London, the Fib ReviewChaleur and Jewish Fiction.

London-based poet and playwright, Sarah Browne (Ngāti Porou) received the award for Best Play by a Māori Playwright for Second to God, a complex riff on the #metoo era. Accusations of rape and complicity collide when Julie reveals to her sister that she willingly slept with a man powerful enough to determine the future of her film career.

The award for Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright went to Tanya Muagututi’a for Scholars, a heartfelt, well-crafted comedy/drama set largely in Samoa about a Samoan teenager and Māori teenager who meet as scholarship students in New Zealand in the 1950s. Tanya is a founding member of the legendary arts collective Pacific Underground which has nurtured a generation of Pasifika talent. Scholars is inspired by the real-life journey of Tanya’s father, Muagututi'a Pulusila Meafou Sagapolutele, to New Zealand as an 11 year old unaccompanied minor in the 1950s.

The inaugural winner of the McNaughton South Island Play Award was Christchurch playwright Carl Nixon. In turns hilarious and moving, An Unlikely Season follows the terminally ill Jim as he travels to the UK in the hopes of witnessing his beloved Leicester City Football Club take out the English Premier League title. Carl Nixon is a full-time writer of novels, plays, and short stories. Carl was the recipient of the Ursula Bethel Residency at Canterbury University in 2006, and in 2018 he held the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship in Menton, France. His plays include The RaftCrumpyThe War ArtistTwo Fish n a Scoop, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joanne. His fourth novel, The Tally Stick will be released in July 2020

The McNaughton South Island Play Award is awarded to a play written by a South Island resident. It was established by Dr Christina Stachurski, in memory of Professor Howard McNaughton,1945–2014. Professor McNaughton taught drama throughout his 38-year career at the University of Canterbury. He was recognised as a leading expert on New Zealand theatre and for many years was a theatre reviewer for The Press.

The Adam NZ Play Award, now in its thirteenth year, is the only one of its kind for new writing. Playmarket’s only entrance requirements are that the playwright be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and that the play has not yet had a professional production. The award is generously funded by the Adam Foundation. Playmarket is also very grateful for the support of our major funders Foundation North and Creative New Zealand. 

ADAM AWARD WINNER 2020 and Best Play by a Woman Playwright: Jess Sayer for This Particular Room

RUNNER UP: Siobhan Rosenthal for Blocked

Best Play by a Māori Playwright: Sarah Browne for Second to God

Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright: Tanya Muagututi’a for Scholars

McNaughton South Island Play Award: Carl Nixon for An Unlikely Season

Other Finalists:

George Arthur – A Relatively Uneventful Evening
Ralph McCubbin Howell – Lysander’s Aunty
Chye-Ling Huang – Black Tree Bridge
Hone Kouka – On Springfield Road
Olga Nikora – a short guide to staying alive
Regan Taylor – Mate
Craig Thaine – Rupture

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28 Mar 2020

Interests New Zealand Playwrights’ Agent. Advisor. Bookshop.