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Contributor profile: Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn Kelly Kathryn Kelly

I only ever wanted to be a dramaturg when I grew up. I trained at the University of Queensland, where I did an Honours thesis on Australian female playwrights of the 1940s before heading over to Toronto to work as a freelance dramaturg.

Over the last decade or two I’ve run an international young playwrights festival (Interplay), a small publishing house (Playlab) and done my stints in arts policy for Arts Queensland. I’ve worked for all of the script development agencies in the country, had credits for shows with every professional company in Queensland and most of the independent ones. My dramaturgical practice includes new writing, contemporary performance, dance, circus and cabaret.

I am gladly freelancing again after the birth of my first child, Elsie, doing a PhD on how to teach dramaturgy while teaching dramaturgy around town at various universities, TAFE and, of course, reviewing for RealTime.


My dramaturgical hero has always been the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. Many love him for defining the eternal cultural hipster look: black turtleneck plus bottle-top glasses. I worship him because through sheer wit and intellectual capacity he wrested dramaturgy from the Germans and brought it into English theatre.

Alas, as a cuddly blonde I’ve never been able to pull off the black, but I have always wanted to review. Not in the snarky journalistic tradition that is the excuse for most of what fills up newspaper columns in Australia, but in the wholehearted and generous dramaturgical tradition of Tynan, who always sought to privilege new work and experimentation by finding a way to write about performance that opened it up even for the most conservative or disengaged of his readers. When we talk about ‘angry young men’ or ‘Brechtian gestus’ we are still swimming in Tynan’s sea.

In Australia, the professional performance sector is marginal, surviving through a perilous combination of public subsidy and individual artists’ passion. We practice, in our tribal groups, often trapped by the geographic boundaries of our city-states. We rarely have the time or money to look up.

RealTime is our way of making a national community of performance. As a long-term RT reader that is always why I have religiously picked up my copy, to find out what was happening elsewhere, to see who was making what with whom and whether it was any good?

And this is probably the thing that I treasure most about RT: I can rely on it to provide me with a balanced and articulate account of the national performance scene. This is no small feat. As Alison Croggon noted in the journal Kill Your Darlings on closing her very much missed blog, theatre notes, RT was the only useful source of theatre criticism when she started writing about performance. RT gives you the taste, the moment, the feeling of the show, and it has been so delicious to engage in performance writing in terms of legacy and context. Vive la RT!

Selected articles

Expecting the unexpected
Kathryn Kelly: La Boite Indie Season; Judith Wright Centre, Fresh Ground
RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 p39

Celebrating the body: plasticity & mutation
Kathryn Kelly: exist-ence 5, festival of live art, performance art and action art
RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 p40

Cultural resurgence on the Gold Coast
Kathryn Kelly, Gold Coast
RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 p24

15 minutes of fame & death after supper
Kathryn Kelly
RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 p44

© Kathryn Kelly; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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