Irish Theatre Institute, Tyrone Guthrie Centre & Dr. Pat Donlon are delighted to announce that the recipient of the 5th Phelim Donlon Playwright’s Bursary & Residency is Sonya Kelly

About the Award

This award is named in honour of Phelim Donlon, former Drama Officer at the Arts Council and a dedicated member of the first Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) PLAYOGRAPHYIreland Advisory Panel, in acknowledgement of his valued contribution to Irish theatre.

The recipient of the 2020 award receives an ITI writer’s bursary of €2,000 and a two week fully resourced residency in Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig.

This Bursary & Residency provides a professional, produced playwright with the time, physical resources and mentoring necessary to support their writing of a new play. Recipients are selected from an annual open call to playwrights.

Playwrights who have previously been awarded this bursary & residency are Karen Cogan (2019), Amy Conroy (2018), Dylan Coburn Gray (2017) and Fiona Doyle (2016).

Further information on the award is available from

Sonya Kelly 

Sonya Kelly’s debut solo play, The Wheelchair on My Face, a Show in a Bag with Irish Theatre Institute (ITI), Fishamble and Dublin Fringe Festival toured for two years. It won a Scotsman Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012, and a Critics’ Pick in the New York Times.  Her second play, How To Keep An Alien, was produced by Rough Magic and won Best Production at the Dublin Fringe, 2014.  It toured the Brisbane Festival, Traverse in Edinburgh, Soho Theatre, The Irish Arts Center in New York, and the Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand. 

Sonya’s short play, The Pet Sitter was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre as part of their Future Tense series.  Her play, Furniture, produced by Druid Theatre premiered at Galway International Arts Festival in 2018 and was revived for an extensive national tour. Furniture won a 2019 Irish Writers Guild Award and the 2018 Stewart Parker Trust Award.  

Sonya has also participated in a number of residencies and mentorship schemes including, ADVANCE with Rough Magic, desk space at Corn Exchange, Six in the Attic with ITI, Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and NT Studio in London.

Sonya intends to use the bursary to undertake research for a new idea that explores the relationship between alcohol and creativity.

Phelim Donlon (1936 – 2014)

Phelim began work at the Arts Council in 1983, and served as Film, Drama and Opera Officer, retiring in 2001. He was also Director of the Auditoria review of the built infrastructure for the performing arts throughout Ireland. In retirement, his commitment remained undiminished, and he served on the boards of many performing arts organisations. 

Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council (2011-2019), said:“Phelim’s commitment to the arts in general and drama specifically was absolute. He was a passionate advocate for new and emerging talent, and did as much as anyone in the Arts Council’s history to develop professional theatre in Ireland.”

The Phelim Donlon Playwright’s Bursary & Residency is supported through the generosity of a private donor and funded by the Arts Council /An Chomhairle Ealaíon.