Parnassus Den is a script development forum which has been developing new Australian scripts and their writers since 1995. In that time they have invested time and resources in over 600 plays which have received feedback from an audience of industry and punters- with the aim of new works being made ready for production. From 10 monthly readings throughout the year- a play is nominated for the Mitch Matthews Award- as voted for by the Parnassus Den commitee. Previous winners include:
2004 – The Department Store by Justin Fleming
2005 – Renaissance by Ron Elisha
2006 – Rio Saki & Other Falling Debris by Shaun Charles
2007 – Men, Love & The Monkey Boy by Caleb Lewis
2008- Prefrontal Lobotomy by Andrew Lippiatt

It may come as a surprise that I have never attended a Parnassus Den reading before Monday night- for reasons that are many and varied (Monday nights are often the only night I have free from the theatre, sometimes I need a night talking something other than theatre, sometimes I need to eat a meal cooked at home, sometimes I am bumping in or teching a show, sometimes I am in rehearsal… all these excuses are a bit flimsy, really) and I must say I have missed out on alot.

But who can resist the unique delightful call of Rick Viede’s writing? (Rick Viede, whose Griffin Award winning play Whore appeared at B Sharp and the Public Theater (NYC) this year, also has commissions with Bell Shakespeare and has recently been awarded an Australia Council grant to write two new plays.) And who can deny the tragic heroism of Glace Chase? And so, a bright-eyed actor took me along to check out the new work- the script and the format of the session (for a comparison with my own script development hothouse- Off The Shelf).. and it was really interesting.

Held at the Darlinghurst theatre, This reading was slightly less a reading- more of a moved reading with performative qualities. Writer and performer entwined Glace Chase’s presentation, bravely handled by director by Christopher Hurrell, was a little difficult to seperate the content from the performance- but that did not at all impede the priviledge of seeing a work in progress. Accompanied by a pianist, and with a row of white scripts, a chair and running mascara as a signature mask- Glace was unleashed upon the audience- who were remarkably compliant for a largely untested realm.

It is very easy for audience to become attached to any performance elements on stage- which is where the performance can override the script. But what Glace does is a mixture of script, impro and spontaneous opinion giving- which is only ever truly practiced with an audience. Sometimes as well I have found that writers who read their work can’t often hear the gear changes an audience hears- and this is where considered feedback is so essential to the development of work. So though I was told this was unconventional for PD to hold this type of reading- I thought it was a really interesting and multifacetted choice.

Parnassus Den is returning in march 2010- and I look forward to seeing what plays/writers will be coming up: