6 Nov 2017

Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry is excited to announce the two recipients of the 2018 SANDRA BATES DIRECTOR’S AWARDS, proudly supported by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation. 

This year’s successful applicants are Liz Arday and Felicity Nicol, both emerging theatre directors with a wealth of experience directing youth and independent theatre productions both in Australia and overseas.

Mark Kilmurry initiated the awards as a legacy to former Artistic Director Sandra Bates, in her name after she retired from her 30 years at the helm of the company. The awards encourage and nurture emerging theatre directors by giving them the opportunity to work as Assistant Director on two of Ensemble Theatre’s mainstream productions each year. This is the third year these coveted awards have been presented, and they offer an unmissable opportunity for emerging practitioners to work with established professional directors to help develop and fine tune their craft.

Each year the two winners are offered a paid position of Assistant Director on two of Ensemble Theatre’s main stage productions. They also assist in the delivery of Ensemble Theatre’s Boatshed program, each directing a staged playreading and helping with other Boatshed initiatives. Each award is valued at $8,000, sponsored by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation.

Mark Kilmurry announced the 2018 award recipients at a gala event in Ensemble Theatre’s waterside foyer bar on Friday 3rd November.

In her application for the award, 2018 SBDA Award recipient Liz Arday wrote:

Directing is an incredibly isolating discipline and having the privilege to observe the practice of a more experienced director is one of the best ways an emerging director can learn and grow. I was fortunate enough to undertake an unpaid assistant directorship at Ensemble Theatre in 2012 working for Shannon Murphy on CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION. It was by far one of my most enjoyable working experiences in the theatre to date, to both shadow and study Shannon’s directorial practice but to also observe the supportive, professional and driven company culture that is at the heart of Ensemble Theatre…If successful in winning this award, I will be very excited to contribute all that I can back to the company: as a dramaturg, as a project assistant and as an ambassador.

In her application for the award, Felicity Nicol wrote:

I think Ensemble Theatre is in an exciting position to both maintain its position of excellence, and expand the conversations it’s engaged in with the rest of the Australian cultural sector. These awards are a perfect example of this. I therefore wish to begin a long and robust artistic conversation with this company.  I am yet to work with an Australian mainstage company and I believe this is the next vital step to furthering my career…As an Artistic Director for a youth theatre company, as well as an independent artist I am deeply invested in the values of artistic and cultural relevance and longevity. Ensemble Theatre is a blazing example of this. I wish to study how it plans ahead, how it reads, reflects and challenges its audience base and how it manages to continue to thrive in spite of broader economic hardship. Mostly I wish to understand how it perceives of its role as one of Australia’s cultural caretakers and how this role interacts with the Australian social, cultural and political identities. This instrumental knowledge would help make me more astute and informed decisions as an emerging artistic and cultural leader.



Liz Arday is an emerging theatre director, producer and writer currently based in Sydney. She is a graduate of the VCA Director’s Course (2013), holds a Bachelor of Arts (English Literature) and is also a graduate of the Actor’s Pulse, trained in Meisner.

Liz has recently returned to Sydney after a few years living in the UK and working for arts organisations including the Young Vic, Wilton’s Music Hall and the Good Chance Theatre. While in London Liz founded her new fringe production company LZA Theatre, producing three works including the Offie Nominated production of Lally Katz’s THE EISTEDDFOD and a film adaptation of Charles L. Mee’s performance text JESUS. She also collaborated with London-based Australian Theatre Company Red Scarf Theatre directing their acclaimed debut production RIDE by Jane Bodie as part of the Camden Fringe.

Prior to undertaking studies at the VCA, Liz worked in Sydney under the moniker Factotum, producing adaptations of theatre and film texts in the intimate upstairs space of the now defunct TAP Gallery in Darlinghurst. Notable productions include HEDDA GABLER, THREE SISTERS and THIS IS BABY DOLLa post-feminist adaptation based on the Elia Kazan film BABY DOLL and the Tennessee Williams short play TWENTY SEVEN WAGONS FULL OF COTTON.


Felicity Nicol graduated from the NIDA post graduate director’s course in 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Performance Studies, and a Bachelor or Art History and Theory from UNSW.  She is currently Artistic Director of Spark Youth Theatre. This year Felicity has been completing a 6 month residency with Canadian company Mammalian Diving Reflex, and has been creating work with them at various European Festivals in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

From 2014 through 2017 Felicity devised and directed a number of youth based productions for Spark Youth Theatre including Political Children:  a verbatim devised debate around the Safe Schools controversy first performed in local Government Chambers throughout the inner west and then in association with ATYP as part of this year’s Mardi Gras Festival , tHe dUb ProJeCT: ReGeN!:  an intergenerational work exploring the moments on screen that shaped generations, TO THINE OWN SELF:  in association with headspace Ashfield and the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW – where a group of artists meet with a group of young people with mental health issues, and PROJECT:WHISPER:  presented with Mardi Gras – where a group of young people examine what it means to be young and queer from Western Sydney, and PUNK ROCK: an examination of adolescence on the edge.

Felicity has taught theatre, performance, directing, writing, theatre-making, physical theatre and ensemble-building workshops at a variety of organisations such as ATYP, the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, the Inner West Council, City of Sydney and Wear it Purple.