Veronica Kelly Prize

The Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies has created an annual award for the Best Postgraduate Paper presented at an ADSA conference.

Purpose of the award

This award is designed to recognise research excellence in postgraduate studies.

To be eligible for the award candidates must:

  • nominate themselves for consideration to the prize convenor prior to the conference;
  • submit a DRAFT of their paper to the prize convenor prior to the conference (latest by the end of PG/ECR day)
  • be a currently enrolled postgraduate student;
  • present an original paper in the main conference sessions, not in the working groups;
  • be a current student member of ADSA at the time of application;
  • not hold a tenured (that is ongoing or continuing contract) position at a university or other tertiary insitution; and
  • not have previously been awarded the prize.

The criteria for shortlisting and selecting the most excellent paper is:

  • the paper is nominated for the prize before the conference commences, including the submission of a draft
  • the paper engagingly and effectively addresses the conference theme
  • the paper presents a clear, complete, well-researched argument about an element of drama, theatre or performance studies which is of interest to the field at large, and original or innovative in its content or its conceptualisation
  • the paper is suitable for publication in ADS within 3 months of presentation

Each year’s winner is announced at the conclusion of the ADSA conference.

The Prize consists of $500 from ADSA and mentoring towards publication of the winning paper in Australasian Drama Studies.

The judging panel for 2023 will be led by Julie Shearer (University of New England). 

Deadline: TBC. To ensure full consideration, please send your nomination and draft paper to the Chair of judges.


Professor Veronica Kelly, FAHA (University of Queensland)

Veronica Kelly’s research concentrates on Australian and international theatre history and historiography of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Professor Kelly is a world expert on the writer Louis Nowra and has published internationally on numerous other contemporary Australian authors. Since 1998 her main interest has been in theorising the intersection of discourses of class, gender, imperial and ‘Australian’ identifications, both through theatre as an industry and as modelled by popular theatrical stars. An invaluable contribution to the scholarship of Australian theatre and drama is Kelly’s founding and editorship in 1982 (with Richard Fotheringham FAHA) of the journal Australasian Drama Studies. Professor Kelly’s current research activities include the AusStage database, a unique resource for researchers.

Her publications include The Empire Actors: Stars of Australasian Costume Drama 1890s-1920s (2010); Impact of the Modern: Vernacular Modernities in Australia 1870s-1960s (2008, with Robert Dixon FAHA); The Theatre of Louis Nowra (1998); Our Australian Theatre in the 1990s (1998); and Australia Felix (1988).

Winner of the 2023 Veronica Kelly Prize

Melita Rowston (University of New England) for "'We have been enslaved by hordes of evil and bias:' Reimaging an Anti-Colonial Irish Performance Tradition through the Voices of Australian Female Convicts".

Rowston’s compelling paper is an exemplary synthesis of rigorous scholarly research and embodied artistic response to the archive.  Her work allows us to ‘hear’ the unruly female voices often absent or elided from traditional tellings of history.  It demonstrates the power of practice-led research to intersect with historical records in a way that allows us to experience the past as ‘alive’ and prompts us to reexamine the present.

Honourable Mention

Matthew Bapty (University of Queensland) for "Written into Nonbeing: Queer Self-Effacement in the Work of Kester Berwick"

The judging panel would like to Highly Commend Matthew Bapty for his paper. Bapty has conducted a valuable piece of historical research through affective engagement with the archive to reveal the work of an exciting Australian playwright whose work had been largely forgotten but whose reemergence is incredibly timely.

Past Recipients of the Award

2022 Sarah Wilson (University of Queensland): "Our Own Time and Space: Locating Autistic Poetics in Theatre."

The panel appreciated the dynamic and engaged presentation of well theorised and innovative research. Sarah has offered language and a dramaturgical framework for interpreting and interacting with diverse creative practice scholarship. The intersectional theorisation of autistic dramaturgy was compelling, applied to two distinct case studies in a nuanced way within an access-led approach, and offers findings and insights that are translatable beyond the specifics of this research project.  

Honourable Mention 

Beanie Ridler (UNSW Sydney) for "Conversation and Co-Ownership: Navigating Writing Theatre of the Real Together via 'Complex Consent'."

Informed by a rigorous research design which builds on interviews with practitioners, scholarly engagement and critical reflection, Beanie has formulated a definition of ‘complex consent’ when working in community engaged practice and particularly in the form of theatre of the real which makes a tangible and meaningful contribution to the field of practice. The panel look forward to seeing this concept further refined as Beanie continues her research and applies this concept in her own practice.

2021 Katy Maudlin (Deakin University): "Director/Mother/Outlaw: A Study at the Intersection of Directing Practice and Mothering"

The panel applaud this paper for its detailed methodology, the clever, sensitive and creative way the author worked with her interview participants, and the way in which her own artistic work was referenced. The interview questions and topics were well judged, and the research ethically conducted and reported on. The topic is extremely timely, and the paper spoke eloquently to the conference theme. Richly wrought analysis gave space for future expansion around ideas to do with dispersals of power, access and inclusion. The panel greatly appreciated the self-reflexive elements of the study as it stands, and envisage future research irising out to further interrogate structures of power. We look forward to the richness that contrasting case studies might offer to the work. 

Honourable Mention 

Caitlin West (University of Queensland) for 'Othello’s Black(?) Handkerchief: textual instability as locus for de-colonisation on stage'.

2020 Abbie Victoria Trott (University of Melbourne): "What are the Ties That Hold us Together? The Smartphone Network in As If No One is Watching and Body of Knowledge"

Abbie Trott presented a coherently argued and well-shaped paper with a strong engagement between its theoretical framework and the conference theme. Providing a crisp introduction to network theory, the paper explored how the two case study examples could be understood through this theoretical framework, and how this work could be used to extend established arguments in the field, all framed by a link to concepts of connection and assembling. The case study productions were described and interrogated with great care and detailed thick description, and the discussion emphasised porosities and juxtapositions between the two works. The paper was especially timely in the current context where the art form is constrained to work with technology, but also identified trends and tropes, and signature figures in the field. Particularly in a year where much emphasis has been placed upon positioning technology and frames of mediatisation as alienating mechanisms and poor substitutes for the embodied, this paper reminds us that technology can also gather together and affectively connect communities.

2019 Kathryn Roberts Parker (University of Sydney): "Communal Singing and the Traditional Festivals of Robin Hood in Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Twelfth Night"

The theoretical architecture of this well researched, ambitious and sophisticated paper illuminated the research question but didn’t overwhelm it. The paper drew on a diversity of material including archival sources, an incisive theoretical frame, and the researcher’s own knowledge of music.
The paper began with broad introduction that then filtered the information to the level of the granular, then re-evoked to the initial proposition, so that the listener came through the journey of the research with the researcher. The panel were impressed by the fact that the researcher drew on past analysis and duly applied that past research to a song from Twelfth Night, making more piquant the fact that we’re here at ADSA deep in winter. This was a historiographically-aware paper that encompassed theatre history and historiography, and therefore is an appropriate winner of this award given Veronica Kelly’s own historically-informed research. We also enjoyed the fact that we were invited to participate actively in the findings of the research through singing.

2018 Sarah Austin (Victoria College of the Arts ): "The Desire for Authenticity: Child Performers in Contemporary Performance for Adult Audiences"

Sarah Austin presented a highly original and timely discussion of what constitutes ethical dramaturgy in relation to childhood and children in the entertainment industry. She produced a sophisticated and well theorized argument, using rich description and vivid examples from recent theatre performance works, inflected with insights from her own practice.

''I am a PhD candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts in my final year of candidature. My research is a practice-led investigation of an ethical process of working with children in contemporary performance for adult audiences. In 2018, I had the great privilege of presenting on an aspect of my research at the ADSA conference, and the honour of winning the Veronica Kelly Prize. This meant that in addition to a (much valued!) $500 prize, I received mentoring on transforming my conference paper into an article for submission to the ADSA journal. The mentoring I received was truly invaluable. In the extraordinary thoughtful and careful insights the mentors had into how to restructure, reconsider and redraft my paper, they also revealed new ways of understanding my entire research project and how I might start to think about structuring my doctoral thesis. It was an incredibly helpful and valuable process and I am grateful and indebted to ADSA for the Award and the opportunity" - Sarah Austin

Honourable Mentions
Kate Shearer (University of New England): "Excavating Ghosts: The Actor/Audience Relationship in Narrative-led Site Specific Work, Plunge"
Madeline Taylor (Victoria College of the Arts): "Acting in Collaboration: Actors, Costumes and Discoveries in the Fitting Room"

2017 Merophie Carr (Monash University): "Dancing on the Platforms" - a site-specific performance of belonging"

Merophie gave an engaging and elegantly theorised paper focusing on art in public spaces. "Dancing on the Platforms" spoke inventively to the conference theme and drew on a range of methodologies. Thick description was interwoven with proxemics and spatial theory to provide a provocative insight into the project. This paper asks where art fundamentally belongs, and promises to be as impactful for future readers as it was to those attending the paper. 

Honourable Mentions

Nien Yuan Cheng (University of Sydney): "Don't Try This at Home: Oral history as performance in Singapore"

James Wenley (University of Auckland): "Finding Yourself Overseas: New Zealand Theatre's O.E"

2016 Jane Woollard (La Trobe University): “Treading, Writing, and Dyeing: The resilience of an Australian nineteenth century actress”

The research in Jane Woollard’s paper, “Treading, Writing, and Dyeing: The resilience of an Australian nineteenth century actress” was both deep and original, and included extremely detailed archival investigation. The paper followed the lives of two nineteenth-century actresses, Eliza Winstanley and Maria Taylor. It told a vivid, intricately documented and highly compelling historical narrative which synthesised accounts of the two actresses’ lives – both inside and outside the theatre – and provided a meditation on the resilience required by nineteenth-century female performers.  The paper addressed the conference theme effectively, and was delivered with spirit and clarity. 

Honourable Mentions

Sharon Mathews (University of Otago): “Lies, Damn Lies and Masculinity: Failed resilience in Phil Braithwaite’s The War Play”

Suzanne Thurow (University of New South Wales): “Performed Resilience!?: Identity constructions in contemporary Australian Indigenous and intercultural theatre practice”

2015 Joint Winners

Sarah Peters (University of Southern Queensland): “‘The tragedy will take care of itself’: Acting in Verbatim Theatre”

Sarah Peters’ paper “‘The Tragedy Will Take Care of Itself’: Acting in Verbatim Theatre” is an exemplary instance of practice-led research. Framed by Tom Cantrell’s research into acting in documentary theatre, and grounded by her own careful, detailed and thoroughly documented account of developing her own play bald heads & blue stars, this paper yielded new insights into the practice of verbatim theatre. Not only did it contribute a new Australian case study to a discourse currently dominated by examples from the US and UK, it also asked scholars to think about how actors experience performing oral history and how this, in turn, affects the experience of audiences, who are in some cases also the interviewees. Written with academic precision and delivered with activist passion, Peters persuaded all who heard her about the possibilities of verbatim theatre.

Prateek (University of Queensland): “Reinterpreting Passion: A Study of Habib Tanvir’s Theatre”

Prateek was awarded the Veronica Kelly Prize for his paper ‘Reinterpreting passion: A study of Habib Tanvir’s theatre’. Working with Joseph Roach’s idea that theories of acting are influenced by scientific theories, this paper examined the ways in which discourses of materialism were interpreted and given form within Tanvir’s theatre practice, in the process demonstrating that post-independence Indian theatre is marked by a new theatrical aesthetics. The paper was widely researched and well argued. Prateek’s presentation was lively and offered the audience a rich analysis of Tanvir’s innovations.

Honourable Mention

Jane Woollard (LaTrobe University): “Miss W Treads: Craft as Second Nature”

2014 Mohebat Ahmadi, for her paper "Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling: Theatre in the age of Hyperobjects"

In her paper Mohebat demonstrates a sophisticated theoretical understanding of ecocriticism, and she gives an extraordinarily elegant application of this theory to produce a stunning new reading of a play otherwise considered, in some quarters, to be somewhat 'old-fashioned'. Decentring the human subjects, she reframes the play in terms of climate change and in this way she responds perceptively to the theme of the 2014 ADSA Conference. The judges agreed that this is an excellent paper, highly deserving of the Veronica Kelly Award.

Runner up Abbie Trott, "'Being With' How can co-present multimedia images and performers inhabit new performance ecologies?"

Honorable mention Aaron Annan, "Restoring Balance? Performing Sankofa in Ghanaian Post- Colonial masquerade"

2013 Joint Winners

Natalie Lazaroo for her paper "We’re Off to See The Wizard of Auslan: Translating Deaf Experience through Community Performance"

This paper effectively addressed the conference theme through examining the collaboration between Vulcana Women's Circus and a group of both deaf and hearing women in a physical theatre production of an adaptation of the Wizard of Oz. Natalie engagingly analysed the translations from a spoken and sung text to a visual and spatial text. Her insights into the role that social circus can play in empowering a marginalised community of women provided a well-researched argument as to how meaning is negotiated between physical theatre practitioners, the community of the hearing impaired and the researcher herself.and

Rebekah Woodward-Hanna for her paper "Is it Culturally Appropriate? The Appropriation of Convention Western Theatre in Vanuatu"

The judges were impressed by the way we were introduced to the topic through a personal, visceral recollection of a performance in Vanuatu. The contextualisation was excellent, developing into an original and thought-provoking argument that was solidly grounded in theory and imaginatively responded to the conference theme. This paper both expands knowledge and understanding of the work of Won Smolbag, and makes a contribution towards a re-assessment of common techniques utilised in theatre-for-development.

First Runner-Up Janet McGaw for "‘Immovable as pillars of salt’? Country audience reactions to the Old Tote’s 1965 tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Second Runner-Up Sarah Peters for "Translating Story to Script: A snapshot of the Verbatim Theatre process"

Honorable Mention Christopher Hay for "Writing on the floor: ‘Translating’ a shared theatre space"

2012 Gavin Findlay for his paper "Utilising Tangible and Intangible Heritage in Documenting the History and Works of Splinters Theatre of Spectacle"

The judges felt that Findlay’s research “engages with the need to supplement tangible documentation of theatre practice and history with intangible memories and meanings in order to locate performance in cultural history and memory. The research is extremely relevant, with practical suggestions of how to capture intangible history related to Australian theatre. Findlay’s work on the Canberra-based company, Splinters, stands as an important case-study which illustrates the urgent need to better archive theatre in Australia.”

Short List:

First Runner-Up Janet McGaw for "Nomads in a Strange Town: The Role of Itinerant Professionals in NSW Country Dramatic Societies"

Second Runner-Up Natalie Lazaroo for "Circus in the Cemetery: Transforming Space and Unearthing Memory in the Vulcana Women's Circus' Performance of Grave Effects"

Honorable Mention:

Sarah Peters for "Out of Context: Meaning Making in Verbatim Theatre Across Time and Place" and

Katherine Johnson for "Sense(s) and Sensibilit(ies): Performing British Identities in a (Multi)cultural Landscape"

2011 Saumya Liyanage for his paper "“My body taught me how to act”: Towards an epistemology of actor learning and apprenticeship"

Short List:

First Runner-Up Paul Davies for "From Burwood to the Bay”: one theatre company’s transition through the cultures of suburbia"

Second Runner-Up Cassandra Duell for "A Promise of Insideness: (the lack of) Japanese influence on the contemporary Australian mainstage"

Honorable Mention

Nelson Chia for "Role Model: Characterisation in Pyschological Acting and Asian Traditional Performance"

Nicola Hyland for "Ingenious Alteri-teens: The mediatisation of the Chooky Dancers" and

Christopher Hay for "Learning to Inhabit the Chair: Knowledge & the NIDA Directing Program"

2010 Anna Teresa Scheer for her paper "Challenging Theatre's Hidden Hierarchies: Chistoph Schilingensief's Theatrical Interventions in Hamburg"

Short List:

Miranda Heckenberg for Discourses of Minimalism in the Contemporary Practice of Australian Scenographers"

Christopher Hay for "'Edgy, rockin' student theatre': Emergent Directors and the Avant-Garde" and

Robert Reid "Everyone's a Critic: Do blogs represent the democratisation of cultural comment or do they expose (strip bare) the ignorance and prejudices of a privileged few?"

Honorable Mention

Justine Shih Pearson for "Being and performing non-place: Notes from the airport"

Teresa Izzard for "Marber's After Miss Julie and The Flayed Angel: A somatic/bodymind approach to the creation of character" and

Sarah Thomasson for "Empty Spaces? Stripping Bare Performance in Found Space"

2009 Cat Hope: Ka-Boom!—Experiencing music through vibration in the work of bass project Abe Sad

2008 Megan Hoffmann:  Is a Fashion Show the Place for a Political Message?  Investigating the Spectacle Dressed up in Ideas in Hussein Chalayan’s After Words.

2007 Ryan Hartigan '"They Watch Me as They Watch This" ­ Alfred Jarry, Symbolism and self as performance in fin de siecle Paris'.

2006 Caroline Wake (University of NSW) 'Neither Here Nor There: The Laramie Project in Australia'

2005 Carol Langley (University of NSW) 'Borrowed Voice: The Art of Lip-Synching in Sydney Drag'

2004 Alyson Campbell (University of Melbourne) 'Experiencing Kane: Sarah Kane's 'Experiential' Theatre in Performance'

2003 Jenny Leong (University of Sydney) (inaugural award) 'Applauding Posterity at the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive'