Amelia Roper
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Amelia Roper

Dame Joan Sutherland Fund recipient, Playwright

Amelia Roper is an Australian playwright now studying at the Yale School of Drama and recipient of the Cheryl Crawford Scholarship. Plays include, SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE: Old Vic, New Voices (London 2012), Berkeley Rep Ground Floor Residency (2012), Kennedy Center NNPN Festival (2012), Moscow Playwright & Director Center (Russian translation, 2011), Yale (2011). HONG KONG DINOSAUR: Bay Area Playwrights Festival (2011), JUMP showcase with mentor Will Eno (NYC, 2010), first commissioned by the Melbourne Theatre Company (Australia, 2009). BIG SKY TOWN: St Martins National Playwriting Award (Australia, 2007), published by Full Dress Publishing (2009), produced by the Arts Centre, Melbourne and St Martins Youth Arts Centre, two sold-out productions and a regional tour (2008/9). CAMBERWELL HOUSE: Forty Forty Home (Melbourne, 2010), Boston, New York, Colorado (with Theatre Masters) and London (Union Theatre), published by Smith & Kraus (2012). A DUCK ON A BIKE (Yale, 2011). DEREK TODAY! Pavement Group, Chicago (2011). Her first play, FLYWIRE, won the MUST National Student Award (2003). Roper is the first Australian at the Yale School of Drama, currently completing her MFA under Paula Vogel, Jeanie O'Hare, Sarah Ruhl and Doug Wright and is Teaching Assistant to Sarah Ruhl at Yale College. She will soon develop a new play for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Black Swan Lab (2012). Roper is kindly supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, the Dame Joan Sutherland Fund and is a proud member of the DGA. 


Who are you as an artist?
I'm a playwright. I'm interested in directing again and writing for film and TV. But I'll always be a playwright first.
What prompted you to come to the US?
I went to the Yale School of Drama for my Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting. They take three writers a year and I also got a scholarship. I wanted to be where playwrights are rockstars and I wanted to train the way Australia trains its actors, over a number of years in a conservatory. I felt I had potential but lacked craft.
What did your course/project involve?
It's a three year degree, I now have a Master of Fine Arts. The conservatory trains all other theatrical disciplines as well, so the playwrights have one production a year, working with the MFA actors and directors, designers, etc. We take master classes and workshops with famous writers, as well as classes we can choose from other disciplines, like the design department or dramaturgy.
What were the highlights of your experience?
I wrote many plays that have gone on to have productions elsewhere, and have taken me to many amazing festivals, in the USA, Russia and the UK. And though it sounds simple, being around very well read people means reading so much more than I did previously, plays and critique. I'm a much better artist for that.
Where did you find inspiration? 
Culture shock. In the best possible way, which also included getting to know myself and my own country differently. I think that has made me a better writer, certainly, and also better at understanding structures and assumptions that exist in our industry, both in the USA and Australia. I hope this will make me a more articulate leader, on my own projects and as a part of larger conversations around culture and identity.
What will you take away from this experience?
My career wouldn't be what it is now without this degree, and not because artists need the piece of paper. It was good for my ego to work with brilliant artists who respected me as much as I respect them. Most of my current work and income has come from people I met at school and I've only been out for a year. I was also given a commission at Yale Rep., which is unusual for a recent graduate.
What is your favorite piece of work that resulted form this experience?
I wrote a play in my second year called A Duck on a Bike, about the death of my brother. It was sad but also a comedy, and highly theatrical. The actors were excellent and the school community seemed to love it. I have three plays, from each of my three years and each have gone on to other productions or developments around America and internationally. 
What are you currently working on?
After graduating I've been lucky enough to write for many cool places, including SOHO Rep., Yale Rep., Berkeley Rep., the Humana Festival. These are the four companies I identified early on as places to aim for, and I'm doing it, much sooner than I expected! Today I'm working on a play that is being published in NYC soon, finishing off another play and starting a TV pilot.
What is your vision for the future?
I'll be remaining in the USA but I want to keep working everywhere, London, Moscow and new places like Berlin. I hope to make more theatre in Australia because politically it feels important to keep writing complicated plays with strong female characters. Likewise I will continue to write for companies here in the USA, in particular NYC, where I feel most at home.
What advice would you give other artists aspiring to come to the US?
Find your people. It's a big country, you'll find them somewhere but be on the lookout. And get involved, see work, introduce yourself. Americans like it when you say hello and your funny accent will get you far! I'd also say, there's no such thing as 'ending up' anywhere. We are where we are, don't feel pressured to choose anywhere in particular. If your life is your work and your work is all over the world then so be it.
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