H Lawrence Sumner has been writing for decades. His film 49, which he wrote, directed and shot on a single camera, is a story about street gangs and revenge in South Australia. In 2018 he premiered The Hollow Queen, a play about a children’s author and a journalism student that takes a dark turn challenging Indigenous identity, exploitation, hypocrisy and loss (it later won the Lysicrates Prise). It’s Sumner’s breakdown of First Nations identity that keeps Australians talking about him, posing serious questions of identity that nudge at the boundaries of traditional theatre.
It's surprising to believe that his new work The Long Forgotten Dream will be his first with Sydney Theatre Company. The new play was enabled by the Company's Rough Drafts program, a week-long creative development opportunity that grants artists the time, space and stage to work on and present unscripted works.
How was the STC Rough Drafts program important to you?
Development opportunities are important because they offer writers a collaborative, professional environment in which to fail and fail big. To question your own writing in a room full of people who aren’t afraid to give you an answer is such a luxury. If you are willing to allow ruthless advice from actors and the director in the room, it can end up being the moment of critical mass for your play. It's the ignition point. The strength of the Rough Drafts process is that it is facilitated by a literary manager/dramaturg who fights for the writing.