Three new short plays specially written for 11 to 14 year olds compete for the kids’ votes. No sets, few costumes, no frills. Just brilliant actors reading from the original scripts, survivors of a tough selection process. Huge demands made on the kids’ imagination.

Reading Martin Lysicrates


Kids rule OK!  The Martin-Lysicrates Prize winner is chosen not by a panel of grown-ups, or an adult expert, but by the votes of the kids themselves.

Three finalists – new short Australian plays specially written for 11- to 14- year-olds.  No elaborate sets or costumes.  Just brilliant actors reading from the original scripts.  So kids have to use their imaginations.   They watch the three plays.  They shout, laugh, stamp their feet, wave their arms.  They make up their own minds which play should win the $15,000 Martin-Lysicrates Prize. 

If they’re watching in the theatre, they then file out and cast their first ever democratic vote.

If they’re watching the event in their classroom, the teacher counts the votes and emails them - they are still part of the overall vote.

If they watch the recording , at the end their teachers email their votes and they are still part of the overall vote!

Theatre + democracy + empowerment + fun = Magic!

Then they go off and write their own plays.  Or poems. Or stories.

And there’s a fabulous teacher’s kit [link here] to help teachers prepare for the event.

(And it’s all free).

James Martin PaintingJames Martin Statue


James Martin is a significant person in the history of early Australia. Born in Ireland in 1820 James arrived with his parents in Australia at the age of one. He grew up in the servants’ quarters of Government House in Parramatta. A determined lad, James walked all the way to school in Sydney from Parramatta for two years. He grew up to be a journalist, a lawyer and a politician. James Martin became Attorney-General, three times Premier, and Chief Justice of New South Wales. He established the Mint in Macquarie Street, Sydney.

The Martin-Lysicrates Prize is named in honour of James Martin and specifically takes place in Parramatta, his childhood home.


What's the name "Martin-Lysicrates" all about?

The “Martin” bit refers to James Martin (1820-1886), after whom Martin Place is named.  Almost no-one remembers him today.  But what an inspiration he should be for kids everywhere.

Because Martin started life as the impoverished son of a servant in Government House, Parramatta, and rose to become Premier of NSW, three times, and Chief Justice.  At 12 years old, he faced having to leave school – and end up a servant like his father – because there was no high school in Parramatta.  His parents couldn’t afford the carriage fare to Sydney, 22 kms away. 

So the boy walked.

There were bushrangers, rain, cold, and mud.  But he was determined.  He went to a school that became Sydney Grammar; he grew to love the classics; he became a journalist, a barrister, a political leader.  He was an architect of Australia’s first public education system. He battled for self-determination for the colony.  His life was a success.

Another source of inspiration for today’s kids.

The “Lysicrates” bit refers to Sydney’s lovely copy of the ancient Lysicrates Monument, from 334 B.C. and still standing in Athens today.  It was built to commemorate a win by a Mr Lysicrates in the Great Dionysia, the theatre competition that stopped the whole city of Athens for a week every year.  When he was a barrister, James Martin saw a drawing of the ancient monument and decided he wanted a copy of it for his own garden. 

Today Martin’s beautiful sandstone copy stands in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.  It’s worth a visit – it’s very beautiful, and there you can find out more about it.

Lysicrates Monument
James MartinJames MartinJames MartinJames Martin


What's the Martin-Lysicrates Resource Kit all about?

It’s a fantastic 10-lesson program prepared by the English Teachers’ Association to introduce young people to a wealth of topics relating to the Martin-Lysicrates Competition – Sophocles’ Antigone and its relevance to today; a poem created by students using ancient Greek dramatic forms; an exploration of Shakespeare’s tragic hero Othello; the extraordinary life of James Martin; an in-depth study of social commentary in a great Australian novel; and more.

Click on the left hand side of the screen to download

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