2014 Griffin Studio: Introducing Mary Rachel Brown


We get cosy with the second of our four Studio artists for 2014: Mary Rachel Brown, who gives us an insight into her writing processes, about ‘dropping coin’ at the races and wearing tracksuits to work.

Mary Rachel Brown

Mary Rachel Brown and her pup Pikelet

The Studio

Writing is a solitary business, so I feel blessed to have a home at the Griffin studio. A place where I can seek dramaturgical feedback and enjoy the influence of the many talented artists that work with the company.

Whilst in the studio I hope to contribute by flexing my dramaturgical muscle, with a particular focus on working with the Griffin Ambassadors. I enjoy working with young people, they know stuff I don’t.  I look forward to swapping tales, and helping them crack the chestnut of good story telling.

As part of the studio, I have the privilege of reading for the Griffin Award. I can’t think of a better way getting inside where the zeitgeist is in Australian playwriting.

I am passionate about the development of new Australian work, and the representation of female writers and directors on Australian stages. I look forward to working with Griffin, a company that has real agency in these areas.

Like many writers, I have done all sorts of gigs to pay the bills; everything from writing soap opera to adapting classical opera. The beauty of being part of the Griffin studio is I get support to write in my favourite genre – black comedy with geo political content.  I am ambitious to write plays that could be performed in any language, in any part of the world. I recently achieved part of this goal by having my play Permission To Spin read at hotINK play festival in New York. The Americans reviewed my work as “a cross between Death And The Maiden and Spinal Tap”.

I am currently writing a play entitled LOGO.  A two-act black comedy about what can go wrong when the goals of the advertiser are not aligned with the needs of the consumer. I am telling this story through the prism of Bilbods, people who get advertising tattooed on their body. It is great to know when I reach first draft I will be able to get feedback from the studio before embarking on the rigors of draft two.

Mary Rachel Brown

Tattoo parlour research for LOGO 

Past work

My past works include, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting (contributing writer ABC TV). Inside Out (Christine Dunstan Productions), National Security And The Art Of Taxidermy (Glynn Nicholas Group and B#), All My Sleep And Waking (TRS) andLast Letters (The Australian War Memorial). I am the Recipient of The Griffin Award, The Rodney Seaborn Award and The Max Afford

My last play The Dapto Chaser was commissioned and produced by Merrigong Theatre Co. The play looked at Dapto’s greyhound racing culture. The overarching theme was concerned with the crippling effects of gambling. I ended up dropping a lot of coin at the track…and drinking a lot of beer with the blokes from Dapto… amazing how fast you can eat through commission money?

As well as hanging out at the dog track, I have done time at casinos, police waiting rooms, a poultry processing line, roller skating rinks and I am currently hanging out at tattoo parlors to research my latest project. One of the many aspects I love about writing is the opportunity to enter other worlds.

My process 

No matter what my subject matter, I am always searching for the same silver bullet – the moment when the character subconscious desire meets their conscious desire.

In a nutshell, I write a monkey for my character’s back, then wrestle that monkey to the ground. I love stripping back the layers and getting to the heart of a character’s flaws and contradictions. My job is to get my hands dirty with the messy, complex and intimate nature of human frailty.

Inside all my characters is a small seed of my own vulnerability. Writing is an exposing business. I find the process of writing to be everything thing from embarrassing to victorious. To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. But I would never give up a job that allows me to wear a tracksuit to work…may as well try and be comfortable whilst dealing the messy subject of human nature.

PS I too, like Lachlan, am a dog lover. My pup ‘Pikelet’ sits at my feet while I write.