The Lysicrates Prize



Mary Rachel Brown has been awarded the second annual Lysicrates Prize for new Australian Playwriting, receiving a full $12,500 Griffin Theatre Company commission, as voted by the audience, at Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.  

The Lysicrates Prize for playwriting is produced by Griffin Theatre Company and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and supported by the Lysicrates Foundation created by John and Patricia Azarias, with two aims: to provide encouragement to Australia’s playwriting talent, and to help restore the beautiful Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in the Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney.

Mary Rachel Brown was amongst three finalists who were shortlisted to submit the first act of a new play. The two runners-up Campion Decent and Elise Hearst each received a $1,000 cash prize. This innovative new Australian playwriting competition was inspired by the imminent restoration of an historic monument in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden: The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates

The three shortlisted plays were:
Mary Rachel Brown’s Approximate Balance, about the Lightfoot family who struggle to cope with their son’s alcoholism. A young Filipino woman offers them a unique perspective on how to heal. Sometimes we find family where we least expect it.
Director: Mitchell Butel
Cast: Linda Cropper, John Gaden, Richard Sydenham, Lena Cruz

Campion Decent’s Saint Theo, when struck by lightning, stonemason and amateur thespian Theodore embarks on a Gilbert and Sullivan inspired philosophical quest with a mysterious young revenant and a woman in a pirate hat.
Director: Helen Dallimore
Cast: Simon Burke, Rowan Witt, Paula Arundell, Tamlyn Henderson

And Elise Hearst’s The Good Wolf, Naomi is a good Jewish girl trying not to be bad. The Good Wolf is her story about family, legacy, and finding love
Director: Ben Winspear
Cast: Michelle Lim, Deborah Kennedy, Natalie Gamsu, Hamish Michael



Mary Rachel Brown was a member of the 2014 Griffin Studio. Her play The Dapto Chaser was presented in Griffin’s 2015 Independent season and is opening Hothouse Theatre’s 2016 season. Mary recently had her new play Silent Night developed at PWA’S 2015 National Script Workshop.

She is the recipient of the 2006 Griffin Award, the 2007 Max Afford Award, and the 2008 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award. Her play Last Letters is currently on at The Australian War Memorial. Mary’s work has been given showcased public readings by the National Playwriting Festival (Australia) and the English Speaking Theatre (Berlin). In 2009 Mary’s play Permission To Spin was selected from an international field for the hotINK play festival in New York. She says: “Philanthropists in the arts are trailblazers in my books. With this in mind, I would like to thank the Lysicrates Foundation for their generosity, with particularly thanks to John and Patricia Azarias for their initiative in supporting new Australian plays. I commend them on their investment in one of our most valuable commodities, our stories. I would also like to thank Griffin for facilitating the creative process attached to this prize. Writing can be a lonely process, today I gained some journeymen and women who are supporting my work in the form of a commission.  As a female recipient of this prize, I would like to give a nod to WITS – Women in theatre and screen, a movement dedicated to addressing the under-representation of diversity on our stages and screens.”



The Lysicrates Prize is a new playwriting competition that provides opportunities to established writers and introduces new audiences to Australian theatre.

The competition is open to professional playwrights, who submit the first act of a new play. The three finalists’ entries then receive a week’s rehearsal before a staged reading is held before an audience.

The audience votes for the winner, who receives a full commission from Griffin ($12,500) to finish the play. The runners-up receive a cash prize of $1,000.

The inaugural competition was a wonderful success, with Steve Rodgers’ Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam winning first prize.  The audience on the day was also delighted by staged readings of Lally Katz’s Fortune and Justin Fleming’s The Literati.

The Literati was also selected as part of Griffin’s 2016 Season and will be a co-production with Bell Shakespeare.

The Lysicrates Prize is a philanthropic initiative produced in association with The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney and supported by The Lysicrates Foundation



A highlight of Athenian life in the fourth century B.C. was the theatre competition, held in public in a large amphitheatre. Wealthy patrons would sponsor a theatre company, and the prize for best play or musical performance – a highly valued status symbol – was a bronze tripod, which the winner was expected to place on top of a monument they would commission. All the winners’ monuments lined the Street of the Tripods in central Athens.

Today the Street of the Tripods still exists, but the only monument standing there is the one the wealthy sponsor Lysicrates erected in 334 B.C. So elegant is it, and so redolent of the ancient Athenians’ passion for theatre, that numerous copies have been made, in countries the Athenians never suspected existed. The most beautiful of these sits today in Sydney, in a spectacular setting in the Royal Botanic Garden, made of warm golden Sydney sandstone, it is, however, crumbling.

The Lysicrates Foundation was established by John and Patricia Azarias to provide encouragement to Australia’s playwriting talent, and to help restore the beautiful monument in the Garden.

The Lysicrates Foundation was created by John and Patricia Azarias, with two aims: to provide encouragement to Australia’s playwriting talent, and to help restore the beautiful monument in the Garden.

 Read more about the genesis of the competition here.



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