Patricia Cornelius channels the power of resisting received literary tradition in order to open up a space where the lives of characters on the margins can become vessels of universal truths.
Patricia Cornelius is one of Australia’s most brilliant and proliﬁc playwrights, known for her fearless body of work dissecting class, gender, and their oft-brutal collisions. The recipient of many honors, including the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Drama (2011) and a Patrick White Literary Award (2006), Cornelius has written more than two dozen plays, among them SHIT (2015), Do Not Go Gentle (2010), Slut (2008), and the collaborative drama Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? (1999). Her plays dramatize the struggles of the disenfranchised and detested, the under-privileged and under-employed: in Do Not Go Gentle, Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed South Pole Expedition becomes a metaphor for the crossing of seven elderly Australians into senescence and death, while Slut traces the rise and fall of a beautiful young woman named Lolita. Cornelius has declared that “confrontation is the essence of theater,” and her own masterful and wide-ranging oeuvre bears this out, refusing complacency while remaining deeply and uncompromisingly compassionate. One of the founding members of the Melbourne Workers Theatre, she is a long-time resident of Melbourne.
To be awarded a prize as lucrative as this one is staggering but more important is the powerful validation of one’s work that it brings. I’ll be reeling from it for a long time yet.