The Bruce Mason Playwriting Award was presented to Ahilan Karunaharan at the Playmarket Accolades held at the Hannah Playhouse in Wellington on 25 November 2018. The $10,000 cash prize recognises professional success in the career of the writer and is designed to encourage their continued exploration of the theatre medium.
Ahi’s plays include Aotearoa’s first full-length Sri Lankan play The Mourning After, Anchorite, Light vs Dark – The Adventures of Rama (Auckland Theatre Company) and Swabhoomi – Borrowed Earth. His most recent work, the sprawling family epic Tea, was the hottest ticket at the 2018 Auckland Arts Festival, selling out well before opening night.
He is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. On graduating, Ahi travelled to the UK and worked with the internationally acclaimed theatre company Tara Arts, collaborating and performing with various artists from Germany, Australia, Norway, Canada and India. Other stage appearances include Awhi Tapu for Centrepoint, The Night Mechanics for Tawata Productions and Public Service Announcements for No Fefe.
Ahi is also the founder of Agaram Productions, which curated and produced the first ever South Asian Writers Festival here in Aotearoa and continues to be the one of the leading South Asian Development Theatre companies. Ahi was also an associate producer for Tawata Productions.
Directing highlights include A Fine Balance for Prayas Theatre, the interactive outdoor extravaganza Bollywood Blockbuster, Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ for Auckland Theatre Company and the immersive participatory experience ‘Samaroh- The Great Indian Carnival’ for the Auckland Arts Festival.
Ahi’s upcoming projects in 2019 include acting in Belvoir St Theatre’s production of Counting and Cracking for the Sydney Arts Festival and directing A Delicate Balance for Auckland Theatre Company.
Since 1983 The Bruce Mason Playwriting Award has recognised the work of an outstanding New Zealand playwright. The recipient is decided through voting by a panel of leading Artistic Directors and Script Advisors throughout New Zealand. Previous winners include many of this country’s most celebrated writers including Hone Kouka, Briar Grace-Smith, Jo Randerson, Victor Rodger, Arthur Meek, Sam Brooks and Mīria George.
The Award is named after Bruce Mason, considered to be New Zealand’s first most significant playwright. His plays continue to be produced and many, such as The Pohutukawa Tree and The End of the Golden Weather have come to be considered New Zealand classics. The award is funded by The FAME Trust and Rachel and David Underwood.