Bell, Hilary 1966-

views updated

BELL, Hilary 1966-

PERSONAL: Born July 19, 1966, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England; daughter of John Bell and Anna Volska; married Phillip Johnston (a composer and musician). Education: Attended Australian Film, Television, and Radio School; National Institute of Dramatic Art (Sydney, Australia), and Juilliard Playwrights' Studio.

ADDRESSES: Agent—RGM Associates, P.O. Box 128, Surry Hills 2010, Australia; ICM, 40 W. 57th St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

CAREER: Playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tennessee Williams fellow, 2003-04.

MEMBER: Dramatists Guild, Australian National Playwrights' Centre, Australian Writers' Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: Philip Parsons Memorial Young Playwrights' Award, 1994; Harold Park Short Play Competition, 1996, for Wreckage; Aurealis Award for Young Adult Fiction, 1997, for Mirror, Mirror; LeCompte du Nouy Award, 1997, 1998; Greenroom Award nominations, for Wolf Lullaby, 1997; Juilliard Playwright fellow, 1997, 1998; Eric Kocher Award, 1998, for Eye of the Storm; Jill Blewett Playwrights' Award, 1998, for Wolf Lullaby; Bug 'n' Bub Award, 2001, for The Falls; Australian Writers' Guild Award for Music Theatre.



Conversations with Jesus, produced in Sydney, Australia, 1988.

Fortune (produced in Sydney, Australia, 1993), Currency Press (Redfern, Australia), 1995.

Eye of the Storm, A Shipwreck Tetralogy: Wreckage,The Bog Queen, Orilla Del Mundo, Tom and Eva, produced in Melbourne, Australia, 1994.

The Stronger, adaptation of the play by August Strindberg, produced in Adelaide, Australia, 1996.

Wolf Lullaby (produced in Sydney, Australia, 1996), Currency Press (Redfern, Australia), 1997.

Cheering up Mother, produced in Queensland, Australia, 1997.

Shot While Dancing, produced as a staged readings, 1997.

The Falls, produced in Sydney, Australia, 2000.

The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, produced in Adelaide, Australia, 2002.

Pursuit, produced in New York, NY, 2005.


Cruisin', produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1988.

Wreckage, produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1996.

Wolf Lullaby, produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1997.

The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1998.

Is it You?, produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2004.

Love's Delightful Labors, produced by Australian Broadcasting Commission.


E Street, 1992.

Mirror, Mirror, 1993.

Reg Grundy Productions, 1995.

Echo Point, 1995.


A Pocketful of Hula Dreams, produced 1986.

The Young King, music by Graeme Dudley, produced 1988.

The Cockroach Opera, music by Douglas Stephen Rae, produced in Sydney, Australia, 1994.

The Wedding Song, music by Douglas Stephen Rae, produced in Sydney, Australia, 1994.

Talk Show, music by Elena Kats-Chermin, produced in Sydney, Australia, 1998.

Also author of libretto for Faust, music by Phillip Johnston, and for films.


Mirror, Mirror (novel; for young adults), Hodder Headline (Sydney, Australia), 1996.

Author of scripts for various Australian television shows, including GP and The Ferals. Fortune was translated into French.

SIDELIGHTS: Hilary Bell was born into Australia's first family of theatre: parents John and Anna Bell are renowned actors who were influential in shaping contemporary Australian theatre. Bell and her sister Lucy (an acclaimed theatre actor in her own right) were introduced to the theatre life at an early age when they were often brought to their parents' rehearsals and shows. Bell was born in England, where her parents were members of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company; John and Anna Bell returned to Australia with their daughters in 1970.

Bell's first play, Conversations with Jesus, is a one-act work that tells the story of an Australian household preparing for the second coming of Jesus. The play was commissioned in 1987 by the National Institute of Dramatic Art and performed as part of the 1988 World Exposition in Brisbane, Australia. Fortune was Bell's next major work and premiered in 1993 at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney. Set in the Australian goldfields of the 1860s, Fortune explores the life of Chang, an eleven-year-old Chinese giant who is exploited by various characters as they endeavor to find their fortunes by the boy.

In 1996, Bell's one-act play Wolf Lullaby opened at the Griffin Theatre to critical acclaim; the play later toured Australia and the United States. In this tale of a child murderer, Bell drew heavily on contemporary real-life stories in which children killed children. In the published version of the play, Bell shares her thoughts about the origins of such crimes: shocked by "the ease with which a society relieved itself of any responsibility," New York Times contributor Vincent Canby reported, Bell laments that never once "did we turn the mirror back on ourselves, on a society in which banal acts of evil are committed every moment."

In Shot While Dancing Bell tackles another disturbing theme: incest. As Richard Hamburger noted on the Dallas Theater Center Web site, the work "pulls no punches: It addresses areas that are traditionally taboo. I think the play gets at things that may be inside of us but don't usually see the light of day. It is a play that will, without a doubt, elicit discussion."

In addition to her works for stage, Bell has also written numerous plays for radio and television, as well as scripts for television shows such as the Australian E Street. She is an accomplished librettist, composing lyrics for musicals, including the opera Mrs. Satan, the radio play Is it You?, and the stage musical The Wedding Song. As a writer, Bell is most attracted to multi-dimensional plots in which the characters face moral dilemmas, as evidenced by the sometimes controversial nature of her plots.



Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


New York Times, November 8, 1998, Vincent Canby, "Of Youth, Twitching Toward Epiphany," review of Wolf Lullaby, p.12.

Variety, November 2, 1998, Charles Isherwood, review of Wolf Lullaby, p. 63.

Village Voice, November 10, 1998, Michael Feingold, review of Wolf Lullaby, p. 139.

ONLINE, (September 23, 2004), review of Wolf Lullaby.

Dallas Theater Center Web site, (March 29, 2004), "Dallas Theater Center presents Shot While Dancing."

Hourglass Group Web site, (September 23, 2004), "Hillary Bell."

Talkin' Broadway, (November 25, 1998), Wendy Guida, interview with Bell.

About this article

Bell, Hilary 1966-

Updated About content Print Article