To date, all but four of Finegan’s 85 produced plays have been written to commission.
These plays have then gone on to enjoy over 500 seasons, in 18 countries, on five continents. Three plays have each notched up 250 performances during their lifetimes, with others nearing this milestone. Altogether, a quarter of a million children and adults have sat in front of a production.
In addition, they have been included as part of 100 major arts festivals worldwide, and programmed at some of the world’s most renowned venues – six plays at the Sydney Opera House, American seasons at the Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center for the Arts, New Victory Theater (42nd St, NY) and New York University, Irish seasons at the Abbey Theatre, English seasons at London’s Southbank Centre, Chinese seasons at Shanghai’s Malan Flower Theatre, and multiple Australian, UK and US tours.
Finegan and his plays have received 34 awards, and been finalists for another 18. These include the 2015 David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Australian Writing, four Australian Writer’s Guild Awards, Helpmann Awards (Australia’s highest theatrical accolade), Best Play acknowledgments in various cities and festivals, and an inaugural Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship.
While each play (once written and premiered) may have gone off on its own journey, all have started in the same, simple fashion – with a conversation, between director/producer and writer.
- Often a target age group is identified (with the majority of commissioned works being for young audiences), while sometimes a theme, component or provocation is collectively identified or offered up.
- Sometimes (as with Casula Powerhouse’s ‘Tough Beauty’ and Riverland Youth Theatre’s ‘Big Smoke’), young people have been engaged as dramaturges and assessors of the work in development.
- Sometimes (as with Kaiser Permanente’s ‘Four Found a Mountain’, and Tas Theatre Company’s ‘The Boy with the Longest Shadow’) a social issue is identified – though this is always then incorporated into the work narratively, not didactically.
- Sometimes (as with La Jolla Theater’s ‘Suzette Who Set to Sea’ or Stompin’s ‘My Heart is a Hall’), a venue which will house the play (a car, a string of town halls) acts as context.
- Sometimes (as with Tutti Frutti’s ‘When We Lived in Uncle’s Hat’ or Oregon Children’s Theatre’s ‘Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made’), a wonderfully written preexisting children’s book is adapted for a new theatrical life.
- Sometimes (as with Honolulu Theatre for Youth/Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s ‘You and Me and the Space Between’), a shared cultural touchstone – in this instance the psychology of living on an island – is the glue which unites a co-commission.
- Sometimes (as with Slingsby’s ‘Man Covets Bird’) it is an existing picture being shown to me which sparks a new imagining.
- And sometimes (as with many commissions) it is nothing at all – just an appreciation of each other as artists, and the invitation to see what story might come into existence once first words begin to appear.
From this point, a first draft is created, and a creative development then occurs. This involves me travelling to the company’s city or town, and the creative ensemble (director, composer, designer, actors, anyone the company wishes to invite) sharing a table for a week of dramaturgical appraising of the fledgling play. This conversation is always exciting, and always different.
Further drafts are then written back in Hobart, Tasmania (in a lovely cottage that sits on a hillside beneath a mountain and above an ocean, in a home that holds a wife and young son as well). Throughout, an ongoing conversation occurs over Skype and email, the notion of collaboration thankfully not impeded by geography.
And then (once both commissioner and writer are happy with the story that has emerged) the handover occurs, and rehearsals begin. Usually at this point, I step away, and let the rehearsals be what they are, and the explorations go where they may – so long as the words themselves are not changed without discussion, all else deserves the most rigorous of investigations. Of course, when a director wants me in the room, I will happily oblige – but the process at that point is theirs.
And then on opening night (or opening 10am, as is so often the case with children’s theatre premieres), I return and sit beside the creative team and among the creative audience – and together we all witness what has come to be, the fruit of shared artistic labours.
If this process is one you or your company wishes to discuss, please head to the contact page. I’m always very happy to imagine new stories, with new collaborators.
(from directors who have commissioned Finegan for two or more works)
New York City, USA: Jonathan Shmidt Chapman
Artistic Director, Trusty Sidekick Theater Company
Commissioned The Boy at the Edge of Everything
“Finegan Kruckemeyer is one of the most imaginative and talented voices writing work for young people in the world today. His ability to craft whole new worlds with words is inspiring, and getting to inhabit those places is a gift for his young audiences, their families and his collaborating artists. Commissioning Fin to write a play not only yielded a brilliant new work for the TYA canon, but sparked a beautiful friendship and artistic collaboration that will only continue to grow. It was a complete joy working with Fin, and I hope to begin another new adventure with him soon.”
Dublin, Ireland: Muireann Ahern and Louis Lovett
Joint Artistic Directors, Theatre Lovett
Commissioned The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly and one other
‘Finegan has an unfettered imagination coupled with a finely tuned craft. Added to this is his heart, which he always brings to the party. If you have the opportunity to have him in your development process you will gain from his generosity, quick wittedness and originality. He is a true collaborator.
Louis Lovett has described Finegan’s language as the other player in Louis’ one-man performances in both The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly and The House that Jack Filled. Louis trusts his words and the effect they have on an audience. As an actor in a one-hour solo performance Louis can breathe deep in those many moments where Finegan’s words are working their magic. Flourishes of word play conjure smiles from the audience. His words tap you on the shoulder then run away. Play within the play. His craft bestows upon us, the listener, the gift of the detective cracking the case. And on the actor the gift of watching words tantalise an audience. In so many of his sentences are hidden, giggling to be discovered, delightful word puzzles. From simple tongue twisting to poetic expression Finegan Kruckemeyer is a true wordsmith.
Muireann Ahern of Theatre Lovett produced both The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly and The House that Jack Filled and confirms that Finegan has a thorough understanding of the needs of a production with timelines, deadlines, commitments and contracts and is consistently professional in his dealings from start to finish’.
Leeds, England: Wendy Harris
Artistic Director, Tutti Frutti
Commissioned If Only the Lonely Were Home and one other
‘It was a joy to work with Fin on both plays. I came across him while attending the Assitej World Congress of children’s theatre in Adelaide, after watching his Cheeseboy play which I loved. It wasn’t long before Fin and I were dreaming up ideas for tutti frutti and sharing emails across the globe – I’m thrilled he made it to Leeds too and we shared soup and he played pool with my sons. I love his huge imagination crammed to the brim with poetic words, untamed ideas and beauty. His work is epic and yet intimate at the same time. His willingness and ability to take us to new worlds and the poetry he creates is a sheer delight. I’m thinking as I write this we should do it again some time’.
‘In 2004, in the space of a couple of months, I commissioned Fin for two pieces. They were wildly different in tone and ideas but Fin’s numerous gifts took flight inside both of them. There’s a warmth that emanates from all of his writing; a particular blend of lyricism, wit and depth of feeling that is his alone. Ultimately though it is his profound sense of empathy that marks Fin out as a great writer. Read Sarah’s final monologue towards the end of This Uncharted Hour… it’s a stunning piece of writing capturing, with tremendous compassion and insight, the pain and loneliness of a single woman on the cusp of middle age – written, if I recall correctly, when Fin was still in his early twenties. It’s been wonderful to see in the ensuing years Fin’s old soul grow into the world with a such of powerful sense of grace and purpose’.
Portland, USA: Marcella Crowson
Artistic Director, Kaiser Permanente’s ETP, with Oregon Children’s Theatre
Commissioned an adaptation of Timmy Failure and an original work
‘I’ve had the privilege of working with Finegan twice, and the process for both has been the very definition of collaboration. Finegan is uniquely adept at hearing and honoring the contributions that come from a creative team, while staying 100% in service to the script. That can be a razor’s edge to walk at times; I’ve rarely worked with a playwright so deft at navigating it – and at all times with grace and integrity. But that’s just the how, reason enough to want to work someone maybe. Where the more profound distinction lies is in the work itself. Finegan’s worlds are, without a doubt, magical and charmed (though not always pretty), yet fully rooted in truth. The humans (and others) who inhabit those worlds are often broken or baffled or not fully aware of what they’re capable of – they are funny and flawed and heart-breaking. Their journeys (sometimes to self-discovery, sometimes elsewhere) are masterfully plotted. The opportunity to collaborate with him on those journeys has been one of the great joys of my career’.
Cairns, Australia: Suellen Maunder
Artistic Director, JUTE Theatre Company
Commissioned At Sea, Staring Up and one other
‘At Sea, Staring Up is a magical piece of theatre. When you sit in a theatre on opening night and feel the magic begin to flow, you know that your decisions along the way have been good ones. Commissioning Fin was a great decision. Apart from the quality of the writing, Fin was an absolute joy to work with from the creative development through to opening night. Fin is a great collaborator, a wonderfully inspiring writer and his work remains a favourite with our JUTE audience’.
‘I have created six shows with Fin. His plays always make me laugh and always trigger emotions with his character journeys as well as his lyrical language. If you have the opportunity to work with Fin I would dive right in. He is a joy to work with and is fast, fun and his work speaks for itself; it’s high quality!’