Elias Jamieson Brown, writer, actor and director. Image: Steven Siewert, Sydney Morning Herald.

The Ian Potter Cultural Trust 2 May 2023

Elias Jamieson Brown

Elias Jamieson Brown will undertake a director's attachment with renowned Australian director Benedict Andrews on the Tchaikovsky opera Pique Dame in Munich, Germany.

Elias Jamieson Brown is a multi-talented artist whose practice spans writing for stage and screen, acting, and directing.

Elias's work has received awards and critical acclaim; his mainstage writing debut Green Park was nominated for Best Mainstage Production at the Sydney Theatre Awards and shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting.

He has now set his sights on progressing his directing practice and career. Supported by the Cultural Trust, Elias will undertake a director's attachment with renowned Australian director Benedict Andrews on the Tchaikovsky opera Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany.

How would you describe your artistic practice?

I write for stage and screen, act and direct, and adore all those hats you can wear in theatre. I studied the Master of Writing for Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2017 and the Bachelor of Arts (Acting for Screen and Stage) from Charles Sturt University in 2014.

Recently, I worked with screenwriting mentor Stuart Beattie (Interceptor, 2022, Collateral, 2004, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003) to develop my own horror TV series, Norfolk, as part of the highly coveted screenwriter accelerator Impact Australia, founded by Ron Howard.

This year I was commissioned to write Camp, a new play based on interviews with Australia's pioneer homosexual rights activists, which premiered at Sydney World Pride. I also wrote A House on a Street in a Valley called Gomorrah with support from Creative Victoria and Geelong Arts Centre, and I'm now looking forward to a 5-week residency at The Ethics Centre, where I’ll develop new work with a Melbourne-based theatre company, PSA Co.

What does your development opportunity entail?

I have been invited to join Benedict Andrews as a director’s attachment on the Munich production of Pique Dame. Benedict Andrew is one of the most formidable theatre directors to emerge from Australia in my lifetime. He has directed Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, Isabelle Huppert, and in cinema the likes of Rooney Mara and Kristen Stewart. He works exclusively in the US and Europe these days, and working with him in Australia is impossible.

This opportunity is about much more than observing production meetings, assisting in the daily running of the rehearsal room, and offering my own part in the dramaturgical and design processes involved in the making of the show. It’s a chance to learn from a prolific Australian artist and long-time hero of mine, whose influence is found everywhere in the art I create. I would drop and run for any project Andrews might offer to me because any chance to be in a room with him is incredibly rare.

I’ll be travelling to Munich in December to participate in the rehearsal period at the Bavarian State Opera housed within the National Theatre of Munich. During my time in the city, I intend to see many cultural events and network using my existing professional playwriting credits and the help of my agent Lisa Fagan. At its core, my main objective for this opportunity is simple and clear - to work hard, learn from Benedict Andrews and in doing so develop our bond as mentor and mentee and, ultimately a professional relationship.

How do you hope to advance your artistic practice?

I aspire to build an expansive, impactful career - one with many hats: writer, director, and performer. Coming from Wollongong and later Wagga Wagga, this aspiration has yet to be easily understood.

I am finally at a point in my career where I’m able to be paid to write, and where I can create my own performance opportunities, which I intend to do with the TV series I’ve been developing with Stuart Beattie as part of Impact. The opportunity in Munich is another huge step toward building my confidence and network as a director. The opportunity will introduce me to work of scale, which I am keenly interested in learning and bringing back to Australia.

I will be empowered to direct works of scale akin to the work I've been writing - socially vital new works of theatre that examine oil interests, displacement and trauma, power, and corruption. I truly believe in the power of theatre as a tool for activism and change, and I have demonstrated this in every project I write. Directing is another essential skill that affords me greater leverage and control over my employment and career, and the stories I believe are worth telling.