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Common Rooms Writers’ Residency

Expressions of Interest have now closed.

What is the Common Rooms Writers’ Residency?

With the support of the Malcolm Robertson Foundation and Melbourne Fringe, Common Rooms will commission an emerging writer to write a new play in a paid residency at Trades Hall.  The writer will be supported to create the new work, with the aim of it being produced at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2020.

What kind of play will be commissioned?

We are commissioning a play which will be programmed at the Fringe Hub, so it should be made specifically to fit one of our ten on-site venues. The commission is for a playwright – which means there should be text at the heart of the work – and it should eventually be a complete work of 50-60 minutes in length and be designed to bump-in and bump-out in under 15 minutes. It might sound limiting, but trust us, by building this format into the structure of the work, you’re creating an immediate in-built touring network of similar Fringe spaces which can be accessed through Melbourne Fringe’s touring partnerships with Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, New Zealand and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. This commission aims to create a work of high calibre with simple production demands, putting the focus squarely on the text (and performances of course) in the final work.

Conceptually, the play should respond to the context, content, history, philosophy or physical site of Trades Hall. This might include works which thematically respond to the notions of rebellion, protest, solidarity, the common good, the individual vs the collective, employment and labour or rebalancing power structures, and works might directly, indirectly or conceptually reference the site in their development.

What’s on offer?

With a focus on the play writing process, the selected writer will receive:


  • A commissioning fee of $15,000 in cold hard cash, for an emerging writer to be writer in residence at Trades Hall during 2020 in the lead-up to the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
  • A venue for a rehearsed reading of the work part-way through the process.
  • Entry into Melbourne Fringe’s mentorship program, providing a paid artistic mentor who will support the development and dramaturgy of the work.
  • Producing support from Melbourne Fringe as you create the work.
  • A free Festival event registration for a public season during the 2020 Melbourne Fringe including a season programmed in the Fringe Hub.

What do we mean by an emerging writer?

We define an emerging writer as someone who has practised as a professional artist continually for less than five years. We’re happy to accept your self-definition as an emerging artist, there’s no age restrictions and specifications, but let’s just say if you’ve had your play produced on the mainstage by MTC or Malthouse then you’re probably not emerging.

It’s open to any Australian citizen or resident but the residency must take place in Melbourne in person at Trades Hall between February and September 2020.

Selection Process

You will be required to submit an Expression of Interest outlining your past work and your vision for the residency project or process, and finalists will be selected for an interview with an industry panel consisting of a playwright, a theatre director/dramaturg alongside Melbourne Fringe’s Creative Director.


  • December 2019: Interviews with short list, resident confirmed
  • February – September 2020: Playwright Residency begins
  • June/July 2020: Work in Progress reading
  • 1-18 October 2020: Performance season at Melbourne Fringe Festival


For more information, download the Common Rooms Writers’ Residency information pack here. To request access to any part of the process in a more accessible format, please contact Simon Abrahams on (03) 9660 9600.

Click here to fill out the application form.

Proudly supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation.