Sparks is a PLAYLAB THEATRE and QPAC partnership program which runs for a year and is designed to facilitate pathway opportunities for First Nations Artists in the performing arts.
Through the key program pillars of Respect, Connect and Aspire, Sparks connects aspiring and emerging First Nations playwrights with mentors and professionals to bring ideas from concept to the stage.
Under the guidance of experienced artists and culturally supported by the First Nations Team and Elder in Residence, playwrights are lead through a range of activities and workshops designed to spark ideas, introduce elements of craft, and provide strategies for activating brand new script ideas. During the process numerous industry practitioners provide professional and artistic insights to help stimulate the conceptualising and development of a new work.
At the conclusion of their Sparks year, the "Sparkies" get to see their work in action with a public reading featuring professional actors and directors.
Since its launch in 2019, Sparks engagement with First Nations artists has resulted in 16 plays, mentored 18 writers and has employed 21 actors in the process of creative development. Nine of these plays are currently in further development and two are in production.
The Creative Process
PHASE 1: IMAGINE – Creative Workshops
During the Imagine phase of the Sparks program, participants are guided through the elements of craft that underpin playwriting. This phase takes place over three months with a workshop every two weeks. Each workshop focuses on a different element of writing, allowing for deep engagement and skills development. The first introduction workshop is an intensive in person session that allows all participants, coordinators and facilitators to connect and build relationships. Every workshop thereafter takes place online.
PHASE 2: INSPIRE – Writing Intensive
The Inspire phase of Sparks consists of a three-day, in person intensive writing program. Each day begins with writing activities and provocations and ends with dedicated writing time in the afternoon. This stage allows writers to dig deeper into their own play narratives and flesh out their concepts with the Sparks Facilitator available for one-on-one feedback. It also allows for the Sparks participants to reconnect in person.
PHASE 3: IGNITE – Drafting, Response, Reading
The Ignite phase of Sparks is dedicated to preparations for the public reading of the scripts. Each participant receives individual feedback on their scripts in one-on-one sessions with the Sparks facilitator/dramaturg. In between these sessions writers are responsible for drafting and re-drafting of their works
10 pages of these scripts are then selected for public readings with actors. The scripts are given to a director and a small group of actors for a few hours of rehearsal in the lead up to the readings. This stage allows participants to gain an idea of how a script gets worked in a rehearsal room by a director and what insights actors can offer into their characters. Then all scripts are read out loud by actors in a public reading that is open to the public.
This year Sparks is based in Townsville.
Charmaine Koroi’s connection to country is Juru (Bowen), Ngaro (Whitsunday Islands), Gia (Proserpine) and eastern Kuku Yalanji on her mother’s side and Gurang and Kalkadoon on her father’s side. Charmaine was born on Gurambilburra and Wulgurukaba country and continues to live there to this day.
She has been actively involved as a cultural practitioner in Townsville and Palm Island, doing workshops, storytelling, language, dance, art and performing. She has also delivered programs and cultural support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women at the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre and young women on Magnetic Island, in Bowen, Mungulla, Crystal Creek and Townsville.
Colleen Johnson is a Gooreng Gooreng/Yidinji woman currently based in Townsville, Queensland. She wrote, acted, co-directed and edited a short film called Bachelors of Batchelor as a student at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, located two hours inland from Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Graduating with a Diploma of Screen and Media, Colleen won the CAAMA Media Award for this little film which showcases the Batchelor township along with a flavour of comic storytelling. Prior to this, Colleen completed a Diploma of Creative Writing at the Institute which allowed her the privilege of combining and complementing her learnings at the Indigenous Education Institute. Her work Welcome to Country is an outcome of a Creative Writing unit student assignment whilst at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.
Coralie Cassady is a Jirrbal woman who was born in Innisfail. Raised in Ingham, she has been living in Townsville since 2000. Coralie is a published poet, activist, columnist and storyteller. She graduated in 2001 from James Cook University with a Diploma of Communications and holds a Diploma of Radio Broadcasting from the Batchelor Institute, North Territory.
Coralie has published two poetry books Poetic Perspective (2001) and Proper Deadly Poetry (2007). She also has an Advanced Diploma in Primary Health Care from the Batchelor Institute and became a director on the North Queensland Land Council in 2012 and director of Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Services (TAIHS) in 2017.
Linda Oliver is a Waanyi, Kuku-Yalanji, Woppa-burra, Bundjalung and Butula woman, a mother of seven and grandmother of seven beautiful children. She has worked with organisations such as Ronald McDonald House of Charities, Endeavour Foundations, James Cook University and many more, teaching Culture and sharing her knowledge with many, from daycare-aged groups to the elderly.
Linda is an artist, Indigenous caterer and Traditional dance teacher and performer. She has written poetry from a very young age and started to experiment with script writing, hoping to one day have audiences who will enjoy her stories through stage presentations.
Born and raised on Kalkadoon and Mitakoodi Country, Sarah Burke is a descendant of Sandover and Lake Nash women. She is currently working on a Master of Philosophy (Indigenous) research project on Native Land Rights after getting a Bachelor of Arts in English and History.
Her family has always shared oral stories about the bush and ghosts, and these stories have influenced her writing. Sarah’s work includes poetry, short stories, plays, and she is currently working on a novel. Her acceptance into the Sparks program will allow her to hone her craft and contribute professionally to the storytelling community.
2022 Participants and their Works
Find out more about our 2022 Sparks participants and see where they are at with their works.
Alinta is a Githabul, Migunberri-Yugumbeh woman residing in Meanjin. She is a seasoned multi-faceted artist with a love of creating music and theatre for children and young people.
Sheree and Tash are best friends who have just graduated from high school when a zombie apocalypse breaks out, testing their doomsday prepper knowledge, and friendship. A coming-of-age story about three Blak, Queer teenagers, navigating the loss of a world they once had plans for, to now discovering who they are in a zombie state.
Colin is an Australian First Nations performing artist of the Jagera people, and a two-decade-plus veteran of the Brisbane theatre scene.
Can I Call You Mum & Dad?
Colin’s play is an autobiographical one-person show that explores his upbringing, with a primary focus on how his biological parents were separated by racism, and how becoming an actor might have been a way to cope with that trauma.
Fay Gee-Hoy is a Kulali, Gunggari, Jidabul and Barbarrum woman who was born in Cherbourg and grew up in different places. Fay is the author of a children's book called Over the Back Fence and is excited to see more stories from First Nations people onto theatre stages.
Skin Deep – Bit of Black Blood
Rugby star Jimmy Dean may have walked away from the biggest game of his life. Following a media storm kicked up by his selection in the Indigenous All Star's team, Jimmy Dean runs from the spotlight and back home unsure if his career is over before it even began. But running from the present forces him to explore his past when his Nan and Pop show him that their family's been fighting far too long to give up now.
Shannon is an actor and playwright from Townsville who is descended from the Gunggandji people of Yarrabah.
The play focuses on the story of two sisters separated after the death of their mother and the reconnection that takes place twenty years later. The play centres around the central ideas of Aboriginal identity, family, loss, and how trauma manifests when not dealt with properly.
Theresa Creed Tracey
Theresa is a Kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta woman that grew up on Woorabinda mission under the Aboriginal Protection Act. Today Theresa has turned her creative energy to writing a play combining poetry, dance, music, painting and drama to tell her family’s stories.
We're Still Here
This work is a collage of scenes from different time periods – before colonisation, first contact, the wars, the mission and reserve system, stolen generations, the land rights movement, today and into the future. Some scenes consist of poetry and dance. Some scenes consist of dramatic monologue/dialogue. One scene is comedy. Each scene, and the themes that run between them, presents Theresa’s own family’s stories in the context of the wider story of Aboriginal survival.
2020/2021 Participants and their Works
Find out more about our 2020/2021 Sparks participants and see where they are at with their work.
Aurora Liddle-Christie is a Jamaican and First Nations Australian multidisciplinary artist. In 2017 Aurora graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Drama from Queensland University of Technology. Her practice draws on the experience of People of Colour and Australia’s First Nations Peoples at the intersection of community, activism, spirituality and connections to country. Aurora explores this through the mediums of spoken word, performance, playwriting, singing and song writing.
As 16-year-old Kira’s first birthday since the passing of her father draws near, divisions in the family begins to bubble to the surface. With Kira being the glue of the family, a quality inherited from her dad, she is charged with the enormous task to reconcile her Mum and Auntie Rennie’s relationship whilst navigating her own grief. The audience, Kira’s Nana and her cousin Benjahmin are the companions and confidants on this intergenerational exploration of grief and the mechanics of healing.
Che is a Wakka Wakka/Birra Gubbi woman born on Jagera, Meanjin. She is an Indigenous creative with goals to be a state actor, with a capable understanding and skill to direct and playwright. In 2019 Che was an actor in the Sparks program. She is an announcer of Indigi-Briz, 4ZZZ and wants to see more First Nations creatives in collaborations and running organisations.
"Sparks has changed my life. This program is amazing and opens so many doors for you. You get to work with phenomenal actors, writers and dramaturgs... You learn how to write a play from start to finish and how to write your genre specifically. I wrote a comedy, so I had a lot to learn. If you have ever wanted to write a play, I encourage you to apply for Sparks. You will not regret it. I came to Sparks with only an idea and it’s come so far with way more to go."
This comedy is about a girl’s night out gone wrong. Romy is a playwright who meets Casey in a nightclub, who could change her life. She sends her latest script to her new friend and immediately regrets it. Romy drags her cousins Maggie and Alex around Brisbane to try and find Casey, but will they find her in time?
Lyric is a Gureng Gureng, Binthi Warra and Miyally woman and was raised in Brisbane for most of her life. Her main mediums of writing include novel writing, poetry and screenplay. Being accepted into the Sparks program is her first opportunity at creating a piece for theatre.
This story follows 18-year-old Dylan who, after many years, is called back to community after being told her dad, Bryson, is ill. After barely being able to get into community due to rising floods, she is unable to go back after she learns the truth: her biological father, Russell, is on his deathbed and wanting to meet his only child for the first time.
Merindi is of Kuku Yalanji, English, Irish descent. As a multidisciplinary artist, Merindi’s creative strength and passion is centred around bringing songs, stories, language and culture to our babies and children. Merindi's artistic practice is grounded with a deep connection to her mother’s land, Kuku Yalanji (Mossman, North Queensland). Language, culture and history through song, Merindi’s Bama resonance and soulful, easy-listening mixes echo her passion to educate and empower through the creative song expression. Her involvement in various community initiatives and performances have included festivals, gatherings, events, corporate functions and school-based programs.
This interactive, super fun yet sensitive play is centred around three Birmba (Cockatoos) aka larrikins! Birmba explores the lives of jawunkarra (friends) Kukubaka, Jankaji and Junkurrji who share their personal journeys through song, dance, laughs, yarns and more. Notorious for their repetitive yarns, will they find their voice to send the alarm for a once-in-a-century event!
BIRMBA was performed as part of Cairns Festival in May 2023.
Raelee Lancaster is a writer, collaborator and creative producer based in Brisbane. She won the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers in 2018 and was awarded a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship in 2019. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Overland, Cordite Poetry Review, The Lifted Brow, The Saturday Paper and more. Raised on Awabakal land, Raelee is of Wiradjuri, Biripi, and European descent.
Charmaine leaves the big city for her Aunty Bec’s home in the mist-laden mountains to physically and emotionally recover from a car crash that killed her mother. When Charmaine meets her young neighbour, Bridget, she starts believing Aunty’s property is haunted by a malevolent ghost and her life begins spinning out of control.
2019 Participants and their Works
Find out more about our 2019 Sparks participants and see where they are at with their work.
Aidan is a proud queer Butchulla man from K’gari (Fraser Island). He studied a Bachelor of Acting and Performance at the University of Canberra and currently works as a producer and re-occurring performer with Digi Youth Arts, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and Brisbane Sci-Fi Theatre Festival.
Aidan merges his love for Indigenous and queer culture through working as a spoken word poet performing at Jungle Love Festival, IMA’s First Thursdays, as well as numerous events in the Brisbane poetry and zine scene.
“Since the 2019 Sparks program I have sharpened my skills as a writer and dramaturg. I have continued to write and develop my play outside the program with overwhelming support from participants and mentors. Sparks gave me the tools to write and the freedom of understanding the process holistically which I will carry with me into future developments of my work.”
Your relationship is in shambles, your career isn’t a dream and you think you’re a lesbian. What a time to be alive! Capricorn is a play that questions our ambition for career, financial, social and romantic success. How can we make sense of a world where the idea of a long and fulfilling life is pushed on to us? How can we connect when an excess of content is part of our personality? Can we form relationships when practicality and productivity are desired more than sensitivity and sensuality? And more importantly, why bother trying to find out when death is inevitable?
Capricorn was performed from 24 July to 12 August as part of La Boite's 2023 mainstage season and is available for rent on QPAC's Digital Stage.
Ellen van Neerven
Ellen van Neerven is Mununjali from South East Queensland. Ellen’s first book, the Award-winning Heat and Light was published by UQP in 2014, and a poetry collection, Comfort Food (UQP, 2016), followed.
Ellen's writing has been published in Australian and international publications such as Griffith Review, Australian Book Review, The Saturday Paper, The Lifted Brow, Best Australian Short Stories, Best Australian Poems and McSweeney’s.
A performance poem on Australian swimming, the sovereignty of water and the strength of culture and family in keeping us safe, told by a young queer Murri ready to hit the fast lane at the local pool.
Swim is currently in development with Griffin Theatre, Blakdance and QPAC.
Emily Wells is a proud Kamilaroi producer and playwright currently working with YIRRAMBOI Festival. Emily is passionate about using performance to spark conversation and societal change, and supporting artists to thrive in the creative process.
“Since Sparks, I've been working with Playlab through their Alpha Processing Program to keep developing my play into a final script! It's been great to have time to reflect and refine my ideas, to get into the big moments and the little details."
Face to Face
Moxie, passion, drive – whatever you want to call it, Leila’s got it and it propelled her hundreds of kilometres from the remote country town she grew up in, to the big city. It’s been a hard six years, but she’s so close to the success she craves, so close to her dreams of representing her community, so close to being an inspiration to the other girls back home just like her. However, one girl just like her, her niece Maddie, has just shown up on her doorstep in the middle of the night, disillusioned and far away from the same community that Leila left behind, and she’s about to make her understand just how far she’s strayed from home.
Since Sparks, Emily participated in Playlab's Alpha Processing Program to keep developing Face to Face into a final script with the support of Dramaturg Alex Bayliss. Face to Face then premiered at Metro Arts as part of Playlab Theatre's 2022 Season. It is shown as part of QPAC's Clancestry Festival in 2023.
Hannah Belanszky (Yuwaalaraay) is an actor, writer and theatre-maker based in Brisbane. Hannah was the Young Playwright-In-Residence at Playlab in 2017, mentored by Kathryn Marquet. She also wrote, directed and performed in her cabaret theatre piece, The Wives of Wolfgang (Wonderland Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse). Her performance experience includes roles in Harrow (ABC Studios), Julius Caesar (4MBS) and The Roasting (Short and Sweet Theatre Festival).
"One of the best parts of the program was the amazing group of black writers who were in the program with me. We all bonded through the experience and now support each other’s work outside the program."
Shadows in a Dress
This play is about two young Aboriginal women, Alix and Sunshine, who, due to events in their pasts, become members of an all-female coven, led by the charismatic yet controlling, Rae. After waking to find a mysterious fire in the forest near their home, Alix and Sunshine must embrace where their real powers come from in order to confront the dark truth behind the coven. The idea for Shadows in a Dress came from the initial question: What does it mean to be a strong and powerful woman? Shadows in a Dress questions what power means to different women and explores how a connection with ancestors, place, and language can be a grounding source of strength for a young woman when she is struggling to find her path.
Pearl Thompson is a proud Aboriginal woman. From an early age she always wanted to perform. She attended the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) from 2010 to 2014 and graduated with a Certificate III & IV in Diploma of Performing Arts. Pearl has performed at leading venues including The Sydney Opera House, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Darwin Entertainment Centre, and the Judith Wright Centre for The Contemporary Arts.
As an independent artist, Pearl has explored different art forms and fell in love with circus after completing the BLAKflip and Strong Women program with Circus Oz.
"Sparks was a life changing experience for me. I never had the confidence or thought I had the ability to write. This program changed that for me. Having other mentees and mentors around that were also Indigenous helped me gain confidence writing Aboriginal specific words while in an incredible supportive environment, which helps create more Indigenous voices in main stage theatre. I am so excited to see where my fellow Sparks mentees careers take them."
Fairest of Them All
A classic fairy tale, but not as you know it. Set in the 1800s gold rush era, a young Aboriginal girl slaves away in a gold miner’s cabin. She escapes into the fantasy of Snow White, drawing comparisons with her daily life and the classic fairy tale. In the cabin lives seven gold miners and the house mother. Every day she asks herself… when is her Prince Charming finally going to rescue her? And take her far, far away.
Waverley Stanley Jr
Waverley is a Gumbaynggirr and Barunggam man currently living and studying in Brisbane. He is studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing. Once he finishes his degree he would like to work in the film and theatre industry.
“Since the Sparks Program I have been continuing to work on my craft and finishing '21st Century Psychotic.' Using the skills that Sparks has taught me I have also transferred them to other projects I am working on. For the past few weeks I have been researching my mother's side of the family and about to begin the first steps of learning my mother's language (Gumbaynggirr) that was stolen from us.”
21st Century Psychotic
When you’re broken into a million little pieces you can either remain broken or glue those pieces together into whatever you see fit. When David returns home after being released from St Jude psychiatric hospital he must piece together himself and begin the process of reintegrating back to daily life. But when one of his friends from St Jude’s commits suicide, he takes it upon himself to reunite with former patients to find out what happened in his friend’s last days in an attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Capricorn is a play that questions our ambition for career, financial, social and romantic success. How can we make sense of a world where the idea of a long and fulfilling life is pushed on to us?
“Picture This” Aiden Rowlingson and Merryn Trescott
“Anti Espalier’ Aiden Rowlingson
“White Excellence” and “logonliveon” Ellen van Neerven. Both poems are from her poetry collection Throat published by UQP in May 2020.
In November 2023, Clancestry festival celebrated everything that is beautiful, black and deadly about First Nations Peoples and performing arts.
Jarjums Life Museum
Jarjums Life Museum is a museum made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Jarjums.
QPAC’s Warm Welcome
This was a series of events looking at what happens when communities open their hearts, homes and institutions to people from other places.
The Mabo Oration
In 2005 the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) and QPAC partnered to establish he Mabo Oration – a biennial public oration.
As it Happened: Clancestry 2022
Highlights from QPAC’s Clancestry – A Celebration of Country, which ran from 13 to 28 May 2022 and brought together First Nations voices, ideas and talent.
Designing a First Nations Festival Space
How Quandamooka Nunukul artist Casey Coolwell Fisher’s artwork transformed QPAC during QPAC’s Clancestry – A Celebration of Country.
Behind the Scenes – Already Occupied
Quandamooka artist, Libby Harward, created a series of installations across various locations at QPAC during QPAC’s Clancestry – A Celebration of Country.
Our team is dedicated to creating memorable and educational experiences for students of all ages and backgrounds.
The collection consists of over 80,000 items including costumes, photographs, set designs, and more.
What's in an Object?
This novel and thought-provoking exhibition put the spotlight on seven performing arts heritage objects usually stored away in QPAC's museum collection.
Get caught in a Web of Love
Inspired by two love stories, Web of Love featured ten paintings that visualised Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Liang Shanbo and Zhou Yingtai.
In the Company of Actors
An exhibition that celebrated the life and work of exceptional Queensland theatre maker Bryan Nason AM.