The Playmarket Award was awarded to Renée at the Playmarket Accolades held at the Hannah Playhouse in Wellington on 12 November 2017.
The $20,000 cash prize recognises a playwright who has made a significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand.
Renée was born in 1929 and is of Ngati Kahungungu and Irish-English-Scots ancestry. She has described herself as a ‘lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals’. Her body of work includes her acclaimed trilogy plays Wednesday to Come, Pass it On and Jeannie Once.
She began writing plays in her 50s and is considered a pioneer for women writers in New Zealand theatre. Actor and playwright Lorae Parry writes of her, ‘Renée didn’t stand at the door waiting for it to open – she kicked it open, leaped onto the stage and said: I’m here.’
Renée’s playwriting career began on New Year’s Day 1981 when, motivated by a desire to write good roles for women, she sat down to write the first draft of Setting the Table, completing it five days later. Other early works include Secrets, Dancing, Breaking Out, Groundwork, and Born to Clean (1987). She also wrote touring revues sponsored by Broadsheet, the feminist magazine of the era, and for television she wrote scripts for Country G.P. and Open House.
She has been a tutor of writing for several institutions and wrote a well-received guide to playwriting, Let’s Write Plays.
She was named Officer of the New Zealand Order of merit for services to literature and drama in 2006 and awarded Ngā Tohu a Tā Kingi Ihaka recognising her lifetime of achievement at the 2013 Te Waka Toi Awards.
Renée lives on the Kaptiti Coast where she concentrates on writing novels, plays, non-fiction, poetry and her blog Renée’s Wednesday Busk. Her memoir These Two Hands (published by Mākaro Press) was also launched at the Playmarket Accolades.
The Playmarket Award is funded by Creative New Zealand and administered by Playmarket. Previous winners of the award are Dean Parker, Gary Henderson and Jean Betts.