15 July 2015
A University of Queensland graduate’s thesis has inspired a play destined for the theatres of Europe, with shows scheduled for London and Vienna over the next two years.
German Honours graduate Gail Wiltshire will direct a performance of excerpts from Ilse Aichinger’s Novel ;Die größere Hoffnung (The Greater Hope).
Ms Wiltshire graduated in 2014 after securing a publishing deal for her unmarked thesis.
Originally from Boonah, Ms Wiltshire has worked in the arts all her life, both as a teacher and theatre practitioner, and in 1988 bought the Twelfth Night Theatre in Bowen Hills to stop it from falling into the hands of developers.
Her academic achievements and upcoming play stemmed from an unfortunate turn of fate, after she was diagnosed with a grade four tumour which was quickly spreading to her stomach.
Ms Wiltshire said Australian doctors gave her just six months to live, so she travelled to Germany for specialist treatment.
“Each time I had an injection the doctor would say something to me in German which I didn’t understand,” she said.
“I got a dictionary and discovered he was saying ‘very pleasant’ so I started to look up every word for dreadful and gruesome so I could respond next time.”
The doctor suggested Ms Wiltshire learn German so she could share her story with other patients and explain what was keeping her alive.
The treatment was a success and, upon returning to Australia, Ms Wiltshire continued her German studies at UQ where she had completed a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Arts in the late 1960s and ’70s.
“It saved my life: I found myself with a wonderful group of people, so dynamic and happy, and I thought, this is for me,” she said.
It was during this time that Ms Wiltshire was introduced to the work of Austrian writer Ilse Aichinger by UQ School of Languages and Culture academic Associate Professor Alan Corkhill.
“I had already fallen in love with the German language, now I fell in love with Aichinger’s writing,” Ms Wiltshire said.