Writer's retreat leads to debut play

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A secluded English-style writer’s house in the heart of the Blue Mountains has seen Alice Springs playwright Betty Sweetlove put the final touches on a play that will debut at the Desert Festival this month.

A secluded English-style writer’s house in the heart of the Blue Mountains has seen Alice Springs playwright Betty Sweetlove put the final touches on a play that will debut at the Desert Festival this month.

Betty was the recipient of an Arts NT funded Varuna Fellowship which supports writers to travel to the National Writer’s House for a residency.

During her stay across June and July, Betty had a private bedroom and office, run of the house and shared dinners with the other writers in the residency program.

“This was my first full-length play and it just made such a difference being able to get away from the everyday responsibilities and focus solely on writing,” she said.

“I went there with the play mostly written and it just provided the space that I needed to produce a final draft.

“It was the classic writer’s retreat.”

The play, The Nestmakers, tells the story of a start-up company setting up a resort for doomsday preppers on the outskirts of a small town similar to Alice Springs.

Betty said the story explored climate anxieties and dreams for the future.

“It is a satire – that is hopefully funny – that looks to tell the story about the tensions that would come to a town if a company set up a resort for doomsday preppers,” she said.

“It is really about how people would respond to having the end of the world put in front of them in a very real way.

“We’ve got a great local cast and a brilliant director and I really hope that we can deliver an enjoyable 55 minutes of people’s time.”

Georgia Thomas, Acting Director Arts NT, said the partnership with the Varuna Writers Centre began in 2016 and had supported 22 writers, with nominations for this year’s intake now open.

Georgia said the Northern Territory Government through the Arts and Culture Grants Program has invested $50,000 over three years to support the residency program for Northern Territory writers.

“This Fellowship offers valuable dedicated space and time to support writers to focus on just creative writing and encourage the creative process,” she said.

“The feedback we get from people who do this fellowship is that it really gives them the ability to elevate their work from good to great.

“The Varuna Fellowship has a proud history of enriching the Territory’s cultural offerings and I’ve got no doubt that Betty’s work will add to that legacy.”

The program strongly encourages nominations from first nation’s writers, young writers and offers six virtual residency placements to increase access through an online mode.

Northern Territory literary writers, including poets, song writers, play writes for theatre, and illustrators can now apply for the Fellowship, which provides three NT writers with a two-week residency at Varuna -The National Writers' House and a further six NT writers with a one-week virtual residency.

Applications are now open and close on 26 September 2022.

To apply, visit the Varuna The National Writers’ House website.

Tickets to Betty’s show can be purchased at the Desert Festival website.

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