Pioneer Playwright Award

The Pioneer Playwright Award is a national biennial playwriting competition that aims to encourage the development of new Australian theatre by rewarding an outstanding novice, emerging or established artist. In 2018 the award was presented at the opening night of the Pioneer Play Festival by Dr Michelle Byrne, Mayor of The Hills Shire City Council. The night included a prepared reading of the winning play directed by Goldele Rayment and a glamorous Mayoral reception.

The Pioneer Playwright Award will return in 2020 for the 2nd Pioneer Theatre Festival with the addition of a new category for young writers aged 18 years and under.

For more information about the award please complete the form below.

Name *
Pioneer Playwright Awards Enquiry

and the winner is…

GRAVITY GUTS by Sophia Simmons

Company of Rogues and the Pioneer Play Festival are proud to announce Sophia Simmon’s Gravity Guts - a smart, sharp and funny play about growing up, the universe and everything - is the winner of the 2018 Pioneer Playwright Award.

Gravity guts tells the story of a girl as she tries to follow her dream of being an astronaut. She loves sci-fi because her dad thinks it’s cool, she’s obsessed with space travel and her hero is Sigourney Weaver from Alien. She just needs to pass the medical, get through the entrance exam, and ace the physical fitness test (cue 80’s workout music).

Throughout this joyful and delicately woven one-woman show, Sophia explores the big ideas that have alluded human kind since the beginning of the universe; like what exactly is a quasar? What happens inside a black hole? And how do you find your voice in a vacuum? A playful blend of autobiography, creative nonfiction and comedy; it's the story of a girl who just wants to break free from her father’s orbit, but first needs to build up the guts.

Tickets to the award, performance and reception on Friday 23rd November are open to the public.


Sophia Simmons - Winner of the 2018 Pioneer Playwright Award

Sophia Simmons - Winner of the 2018 Pioneer Playwright Award


Scripts are judged on the quality of the writing and their capacity to be staged and toured using two rounds of judging. The first round is conducted by the festival panel to deliver a shortlist of entries which are then judged by a panel of leading industry professionals to determine the recipient of the awards. 


The 2018 awards were adjudicated by a panel of leading Australian theatre makers and playwrights including…

Image of award judge - Fraser Corfield from Australian Theatre for Young People.png

Fraser Corfield

Fraser is the Artistic Director of the national youth theatre company Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP). He has been working in professional theatre for over 20 years and is recognised internationally for his productions and programs integrating young and established artists.

As an Artistic Director Fraser has been an advocate for new work commissioning and producing over fifty new works. He has directed productions for professional and youth theatre companies around Australia and internationally. Fraser regularly sits on assessment and advisory panels for all levels of Government and industry bodies representing local, state and national interests.

Dom Mercer.jpg

Dom Mercer

Dom is currently an Artistic Associate at Belvoir Street Theatre. A critically-acclaimed director and dramaturg he has worked with the Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, National Theatre of Parramatta and Griffin Theatre. His production of Sam O’Sullivan’s The Block Universe (Or So It Goes) was nominated for Best Production in the Sydney Theatre Awards.

His expertise includes time as the Literary and Programs Manager at the Old 505 Theatre (2017), and Acting Literary Manager (2016) at Belvoir Street Theatre. In his current position in the Artistic and Programing team at Belvoir Dom overseas the curation and programing of 25a, the re-imagined independent season in the downstairs theatre. We’re thrilled to have Dom on board to direct the prepared reading of the first winning play in the Pioneer Play Awards.

Image of award judge - Eva Di Cesare from Monkey Baa Theatre Co.png

Eva Di Cesare

One of the founding members and Creative Directors of Monkey Baa Theatre Company, Eva is one of Australia’s most accomplished theatre makers. Her productions have won Helpmann, Glug and Sydney Theatre Awards. Eva’s writing work includes co-adaptions of Li Cunxin’s The Peasant Prince, and Jackie french’s Hitler’s Daughter. Eva also co-wrote and directed Who Needs a Conductor Anyway? with Simon Tedeschi which was developed in collaboration with Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Most recently she directed Monkey Baa’s award-winning adaption of Bruce Whatley’s Diary of a Wombat, and she is currently co-writing the stage adaption of Mem Fox and Julie Vivas’ classic picture book Possum Magic.

Image of award judge - Playwriting Australia Leila Enright.png

Leila Enright

Independent Theatre Producer

Leila Enright produced the 2018 National Play Festival, and currently works at Playwriting Australia as the Associate Producer. Her experience includes production for Darlinghurst Theatre Company; Artistic Director of FLW Theatre Company; and involvement in the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Short and Sweet and Mudfest.

Image of award judge - Playwright Gina Schien

Gina Schien

AWGIE Award Winning Playwright

Gina Schien is a graduate of the NIDA Playwrights Studio, an AWGIE Award winner and a US MacDowell Fellow.

Her plays and fiction have been published and performed in Australia and have toured internationally.

Image of award judge - Playwright Jordan Shea.png

Jordan Shea

Acclaimed Playwright, Teacher and Director

Jordan Shea is a VCA and Notre Dame graduate who has had new work developed and/or performed at Sydney Theatre Company, ATYP, VCA, Old 505 and The Joan Penrith. Jordan is a powerful young voice in Australian theatre, and is currently a resident at Old 505, and Associate Producer with Apocalypse Theatre Company.