Daniel Keene is the most important Australian playwright in the transition between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries…Keene’s short plays are classic in the formal senese of the word: they distil great emotions and large social contexts into simple and profoundly moving pieces driven by the passions and longings of characters who on the surface can scarcely say what it is they want…they are works of huge resonance…
John McCallum, Belonging: Australian Playwrighting in the 20th Century, Currency Press, 2009
Daniel Keene has written for the theatre since 1979. He has written over 70 plays, both short works and full length. His work has been produced in every Australian capital city, including at the Melbourne Theatre Company, The Sydney Theatre Company, The Malthouse Theatre, The Griffin Theatre, The Seymour Centre, Theatre Works, The Sydney Opera House and La Boite. He has won numerous literary and performing arts awards including The Sydney Myer Performing Arts Award, The NSW Premier’s Prize for Literature (three times), The Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature (twice), The Sumner Locke Elliot Prize and The Adelaide Festival Award for Literature. His work has been presented at the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide International Arts Festivals. His play, THE LONG WAY HOME, was produced by the Sydney Theatre Company in partnership with the Australian Defence force and completed a sold out national tour in 2014.
In late 1997, director Ariette Taylor and writer Daniel Keene launched an independent theatrical venture that took the Melbourne theatre scene by storm. THE KEENE/TAYLOR THEATRE PROJECT stretched over five years (1997 – 2002) and produced 17 seasons of work, a total of 33 new both short and full length plays. The Project was invited to both the Sydney Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival. As the project developed the work of the company grew richer and deeper as the project started to take more and more risks theatrically, extending the visual boundaries and dissolving the ‘rules’ of mainstream theatre practice and creating a rich and diverse body of work that is still influential today.
The work he has created in Melbourne has gone on to success overseas. Since 2000 over 80 main stage and dozens more small scale productions of his work have been presented in Europe, predominantly in France, making him the most performed Australian playwright in Europe. He was the first (and so far, the only) Australian playwright to be produced at the main program at the Avignon Festival, and major productions and tours of his work include theatres such as the Théâtre de la Commune in Paris, Scéne Nationale de Toulouse, Scéne Nationale de Valence, Scéne National de Bordeaux and the Théâtre de la Ville and La Colline in Paris. Ten volumes of his plays (French translations by Séverine Magois) have been published by éditions Theatrales, Paris. His plays have been performed and toured in Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, China, Canada and Portugal.
His play, L’APPRENTI (THE APPRENTICE, French translation by Séverine Magois), won both Le Prix Théâtre en Pages presented by Theatre Nationale de Toulouse (2009) and Le Coup de Coeur Prize presented by the Association of Theatre in Education, Grenoble (2014). CHO CHO SAN, his adaptation of Madame Butterfly, opened in Beijing in January, 2013, before beginning a tour of China. The work was the co-production between The National Theatre of China and the Victorian Arts Centre, the first of its kind. Three of his feature length screenplays have been produced: SILENT PARTNER, TOM WHITE and EM 4 JAY. TOM WHITE won the Australian Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay in 2004.
In 2006 Daniel delivered the Rex Cramphorn Memorial Lecture at the Malthouse, Melbourne. He has served as a judge on the R.E. Ross Foundation Playwriting Award and has served as advisor on the Literature and the Theatre Funds of the Victorian Ministry for the Arts and on the board of the Melbourne Arts Festival.
In 2016 Daniel was appointed to the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.