Sophia Simmons wins the 2018 Pioneer Playwright Award

Writer and actor Sophia Simmons has been awarded the first annual Pioneer Playwright Award for ‘Gravity Guts’ – her smart, sharp and funny play about growing up, the universe and everything.

Gravity Guts tells the story of a teenage 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).

She knows heaps about space and can do a rubix cube in under 3 minutes so it should all be easy right? If she can just block out the sound of her dad drinking in the next room, she might be able to pull it off.

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.

Decided using a blind judging process, excluding gender and personal identification from adjudicators, the Pioneer Play Award aims to unearth an exceptional new Australian play to present at the opening night of the Pioneer Play Festival in Castle Hill.

The first national playwriting competition to be based in The Hills, the award was decided by a panel of leading theatre makers including Dom Mercer (Belvoir St), Leila Enright (Playwriting Australia), Gina Schien (AWGIE Award-Winner) and Jordy Shea (Acclaimed playwright and director).

Sophia was delighted to receive the recognition from the judges.

“I’m absolutely thrilled, this piece is really close to my heart and is the culmination of a massive year’s work, so I’m very humbled to be honoured in this way,” she said.

“I feel very grateful to Company of Rogues for the gesture of support and can’t wait for people to see the work,” she added.

A graduate of the Adelaide College of the Arts performance program, Sophia has been performing in a wide variety of theatrical works in Adelaide and Melbourne since 2015.

As a playwright, Sophia was the recipient of the Flinders University Young Playwright Award for her work Brightness in 2013, was a participant in Australian Theatre for Young People’s Fresh Ink program in 2014, and was featured in the National Play Festival with her play Limit.

Her success in this competition comes as Sophia completes her Masters of Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts.

“The process of writing this play really revolved around my own journey of being brave and learning to trust my creative voice” Sophia said.

“It’s very fitting that the work ended up being about a young girl trying to find her voice in an uncertain world and carve her own path through the universe.

“It’s so vital that awards like the Pioneer Playwright Award exist, and companies like Company of Rogues who are dedicated to supporting new Australian voices, without them it would be a very lonely journey,” she added.

The award will be presented to Sophia by Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Michelle Byrne on Friday, November 23, along with a staged reading of the play, directed by Dom Mercer, followed by a VIP reception.

The event is open to the public and tickets to the award, performance and reception are available now.

What: Gravity Guts – Pioneer Playwright Award

When: 7.30pm, Friday, November 23 (arrive from 7pm)

Where: Pioneer Theatre

Tickets: $25 – $40

Click here to find out more and book now.

Written by Robbi James, Pioneer Play Festival Creative Director

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