From page to stage – Griffith librarian making waves in the theatre

Griffith librarian Raelee Lancaster juggles her day job with a burgeoning creative practice that includes performance, poetry and playwriting.

The talented writer has been selected for the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Playlab Theatre’s Sparks artist development program.

The 12-month program celebrates emerging Indigenous playwrights, giving six talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers access to mentors, masterclasses and a showcase of their work at QPAC’s annual Clancestry event.

Making a contribution

“As a young Aboriginal writer, having my voice heard makes me feel validated,” Raelee said.

“I bring a different perspective and this program will allow me to contribute to the theatre world in a really interesting and new way.

“I look forward to seeing my work appear on a bigger scale, and the fact I’ll be collaborating with other Indigenous writers and performers is a huge thing for me.”

Up close and personal

Raelee will create and workshop a new play that is loosely based on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw.

“I wanted to write a ghost story that explores themes of mental illness,” she said.

“It is a very personal issue to me, and in our community we see the effect of mental illness every day.

“Indigenous people in Australia are among some of the most at risk in the world for mental illness and suicide.”

A different perspective

Raised on Awabakal land in Newcastle, Raelee is descended from the Wiradjuri and Biripi peoples and says her identity is always front and centre in her work.

“My Aboriginality is always present in my work and my experience growing up black in Australia informs everything I do.”

A unique voice

Raelee is co-director of the National Young Writers Festival (NYWF) and received a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship in 2019. In 2018, she was awarded first place for the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers.

Her work has featured in The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Overland and arts events in Australia and Berlin.

“I’ve got a stutter, and when I was young, writing was a form of communication that was easy for me and I felt comfortable with,” she said.

“I started writing poetry and branched into feature writing and now plays.

“Over the past couple of years I’ve started performing my poetry, and leaning into the uniqueness of my voice – I just take every opportunity that comes my way.”

Griffith a perfect fit

After studying ancient history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Raelee is completing a Masters in Information Management and said her job at Griffith University provided the perfect foil for her creative practice.

“I’ve always been interested in libraries, archives and museums,” she said.

“I recently took on a permanent role with Griffith, and work in the libraries at Nathan and Logan campuses.

“My colleagues here are so supportive and have taken a real interest in my writing.

“Griffith is a great fit for me.”