The ‘Stella’ to commemorate Canberra theatre artist

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A NEW award named in honour of Canberra actress, writer and critic Stella Wilkie, who died on January 30, has just been announced in London overnight. 

The late Stella Wilkie
The late Stella Wilkie
The award is the idea of former Canberra theatre director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, who created quite a stir by running enormously successful opera productions in London pubs, an enterprise for which he won a coveted Olivier Award in 2011.

The young director was greatly influenced by Wilkie, who offered him encouragement and insight in his early years of directing before he left for England.

Spreadbury-Maher has written to us overnight with details of the award, to be called “The King’s Head Theatre & East 15 Stella Wilkie Debut Award” (the “Stella,” for short).

As he explains it, East 15 Acting School students studying the 3-year Contemporary Theatre course present seven new plays by new playwrights with their acting students each year called Debut Festival ( The King’s Head Theatre artistic director and associates will attend all seven plays and choose two to transfer into the King’s Head for a further performance.

It is hoped that in years to come the award will grow and allow the winner a longer run at the King’s Head, which Spreadbury-Maher directs, and an even bigger platform, but at this initial stage it will involve  a gala, exclusive, one-night only performance.

For the benefit of people in London who will not know, Spreadbury-Maher has written as follows:

‘Stella Wilkie, the after whom the award is named, was a British and Australian actress, scientist, dramaturg, critic and writer. She passed away on 30 January 2013 at the age of 88. Artistic Director of the King’s Head, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, said in naming the award, “Stella was somebody who saw the germ of an idea or talent in someone and did everything she could to see it nurtured, grow, allowed to make mistakes, pick up and dust off when they did, and set them back on course again afterwards. Her support and thoughtful feedback of my earliest directing work was precious and I can see no better project than East 15’s Debut Festival to name after Stella. This award is about what she dedicated her life to. Celebrating and nurturing raw talent is what she loved doing, so long may her spirit continue with this and the excellent work made by East 15 and the King’s Head Theatre’.

It seems a fitting way of honouring the memory of  a quintessentially English lady who was also a significant  force in Canberra’s theatre world.

A celebration of the life of Stella Wilkie will be held this Sunday, February 17, at the Dickson Community Centre from 2.30pm, starting with a Quaker Service and followed by reminiscences about  her life.






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Helen Musa
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