Biography of Michael Gow

Michael Gow is an Australian playwright and actor, born on February 14, 1955 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

In the 1970s, Gow attended the University of Sydney and participated in its renowned drama program alongside fellow director and frequent creative partner Neil Armfield. There, Gow concretized his plans to eventually move into a career in the theater. His time at the University of Sydney came to an end, however, when he graduated in 1980. In the decade that followed, Gow was cast in a number of productions for the stage, as well as an assortment of television and film roles. For example, in the early 1980s, Gow secured a role in Stephen Wallace's film Stir—about the 1974 Bathurst prison riots—as well as the Australian soap opera The Young Doctors. These acting experiences across a variety of creative genres and media served as a fitting prelude for Gow's writing career, which includes not only the plays he is most famous for, but also a selection of other works for radio and television.

Gow's first produced play as a writer was The Kid, workshopped in 1982 and produced in 1983. In 1986, Gow began to work with the Sydney Theatre Company, a partnership that would come to last for decades. The same year, the Sydney Theatre Company premiered Gow's family drama On Top of the World at The Wharf Theatre. Also in 1986, however, Gow was doing work with the Griffin Theatre Company that would bring him immense notoriety as a writer—that is, the production of his most admired play Away, which dramatizes the Australian holiday season against a backdrop of national and interpersonal struggle. Away went on to win the Premier’s Literary Award for Plays in 1986, and 1986 also saw Gow awarded a New Writers Fellowship. The play was staged with the Sydney Theatre Company the next year, in 1988, and again in 2004, and it continues to be beloved both in Australia and abroad.

After Away, Gow continued his playwriting endeavors with two plays about the colonial history of Australia, Europe (1987) and 1841 (1988). In the early 1990s, he took on the role of Associate Director for the Sydney Theatre Company, a position he kept from 1991 to 1993. Under Gow's direction, the Sydney Theatre Company produced a diversity of plays—from Jean Racine's Phedra (1991), to John Patrick Shanley's The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (1991), to Euripides's classic The Women of Troy (1992), to Tony Kushner's Angels in America (1993), to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (1993). While working as a director, Gow also wrote the family drama Furious (1991), which won a Sydney Theatre Critics’ Circle award in 1992. In 1994, Gow wrote the one-act dark comedy Sweet Phoebe, a play about marriage that netted Gow a second Premier’s Literary Award and premiered with Cate Blanchett and Colin Moody in the lead roles.

In 1996, Gow wrote his play Live Acts on Stage, a celestial comedy about the Trojan war and a falling out between Hera and Orpheus. Gow returned to the Sydney Theatre Company to direct Arthur Miller's play Broken Glass. His next major administrative role in theater came when he was appointed as the Artistic Director of the Queensland Theatre Company, a role he served in from 1999 to 2010. In 2002, Gow produced his play The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, adapted from Henry Handel Richardson's famous trilogy of novels. In 2007, Gow wrote the play Toy Symphony, which sees the reappearance of the character Roland (a playwright suffering from writer's block) that had earlier appeared in Furious. After 2010, Gow returned to full-time writing, but he also earned another director's credit in 2011, when he returned to the Sydney Theatre Company to put on a production of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land.

Gow's plays have been performed abroad in countries like Poland, Vietnam, the UK, the United States, and Japan, and his legacy as one of Australia's greatest living writers is unquestionable. His repute, however, is not only limited to the world of the stage: as mentioned, he also written a number of works for television and radio. To name just a few, Gow wrote the television mini-series Eden’s Lost in 1988, which was directed by his college classmate Neil Armfield. For television, he also wrote Art 'n' Life in 1985 and The Ten Commandments in 1997. For the radio, he adapted his play Europe, and he also was responsible for writing The Astronaut’s Wife for ABC Radio.

Study Guides on Works by Michael Gow

Produced for the first time at Griffin Theatre Company in 1986, Away is the best known of Michael Gow's plays, both within Australia and around the world. Gow had just turned 30 before the play was written, and in writing it, Gow has said that he...