A writer and editor of Scots-Irish ancestry, Cynthia Troup (she/her) is based northwest of Naarm (the Melbourne region), in Victoria, Australia. Versatility and rigour are bywords for her practice. With a background in music and European languages, she has wide experience working closely with other artists, scholars and researchers. Cynthia’s creative work tends to lift up the allusive richness of fragments. Often she is sensing into the subjective trace and possibilities of ‘scientific’ language. Her texts are performed in live concert, installation and theatre settings, as well as online. Publications include playscripts and works for radio, opera libretti, essays, poems. Described as ‘beautifully written and superbly structured’, Cynthia’s story ‘All Words Have a History’ won the 2022 Ada Cambridge Biographical Prose Prize convened by the Williamstown Literary Festival.
Published mid-2023, Meanjin 82.2—an edition that ‘marks a new direction for the journal’—contains ‘OUTtakes nine to thirty-eight’, one of Cynthia’s recent experiments with memoir. For the 2023 exhibition George Paton Gallery: Artists’ Bookworks #4 Cynthia completed the pocket journal ‘towards an archaeopoetics’ from 3 walks to 51 (2020), a project activated, in part, by the second stint of coronavirus lockdown in Victoria. Cynthia also contributed new mixed-media work to George Paton Gallery: Feminisms 1975–2022, the iconic gallery’s last show at Union House, University of Melbourne (watch a video document of the exhibition here, made by Astrid Mulder).
Current creative ventures include ‘to know if you are here: Arrangement for houseplants, voice, violin & percussion’, with composer Elissa Goodrich and soprano Deborah Kayser. Premised on the ‘plant turn’ in contemporary research and storytelling, this installation rends poetry and other sound waves from fresh knowledge of plant-human interdependence. The first version was commissioned by Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre as a ‘sublime happening’ for the inaugural War-Rak/Banksia Festival in December 2021.
‘to know if you are here’ belongs to a suite of projects collectively titled ground and figure, fold. The works taking shape under this rubric are impelled by the challenge of appreciating the richness of plant being in ways that disrupt a human-centred worldview, and foster questions about ecological compassion. ‘native grasslands—a tuft of anti-elegies’ is another project in the suite. This collaboration with radio artist Miyuki Jokiranta and writer David Sornig builds on the artists’ experience adapting David’s book Blue Lake: Finding Dudley Flats and the West Melbourne Swamp for ABC Radio National’s The History Listen programme. In 2020–21, the resultant podcast was shortlisted for the Prix Marulić International Radio Festival Documentary Category. With Miyuki Cynthia also made the radio features What the Fox (with Peter Humble, 2016), and Violin Lessons (2014), both commissioned by the then-new Creative Audio Unit at RN.
For the 2022 Goldfields Gothic Festival of Dark Ideas (Maldon, Victoria) Cynthia shared her ‘Script for Maggie Malone’ in a poetry reading hosted by Rebecca Kelly. Among more recent publications: the essay ‘Orchestral playing as embodied knowledge—an unintended lament’ for ADSR Zine 013 (2021), and ‘from Fragments for Her History of the Father’ in Southerly 78.2—one of several published extracts from Cynthia’s creative nonfiction project Constant. In 2020 Cynthia was awarded the Castlemaine Poetry Prize for ‘There’s Time’. Narrated in a soundscape composed by Sarah Monk, Cynthia’s prose piece ‘Suspension (Destruction)’ was featured in Spineless Wonders’ 2020 sound-designed fiction special (listen here). It was first published in the 2019 Shuffle anthology edited by Cassandra Atherton.
Cynthia was a writer in residence at the 2018 Hi-Viz Practice Exchange initiated by Chamber Made (read the resultant essay here). Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale is Cynthia’s largest work for mainstage theatre. Blending myth and fable with facts from the history of the red fox in Australia, Undercoat played to full houses through its premiere season at La Mama Theatre in 2017. Also in 2017 she was commissioned by All the Queens Men to contribute to Congress (a unique series of ‘first speeches’), and one of ten writers selected for Writing this Place, a site-specific project commissioned by the City of Darebin in Melbourne’s north. December 2016 saw Cynthia and the Turbulence creative team in residence at RMIT Design Hub for the research laboratory Agile Chambers. Other major projects include re-versioning Turbulence for publication in the Danish e-book LIGE: Et Digitalt Festskrift for Samtidskunst (2015); and, with Chamber Made Opera, research and interviews to mark the company’s completion of 25 years.
Cynthia was a founding member of the artist-led company Aphids, now entering its 30th year. Initially involved as a musician, her research and writing contributed significantly to the richness and originality of Aphids’ programming during the organisation’s first fifteen years. She began writing for performance as part of the Aphids/Kokon project Maps (Melbourne 2000, Copenhagen 2002). Her script And When They Were Good is part of the much-loved Aphids production A Quarreling Pair: A Triptych of Small Puppet Plays directed by Margaret Cameron, which has enjoyed seasons in Melbourne (2004, 2006, 2017), Castlemaine (2007), New York City (2009) and Rome (2011). Care Instructions, also directed by Margaret Cameron, toured to Holstebro (2009) following two Melbourne seasons (2008, 2009). Described as ‘uncompromising’, ‘melodious’ and ‘irresistibly Beckettian’, the text is published by Aphids as a limited edition, the result of collaboration with letterpress artist Carolyn Fraser. Cynthia has held writer’s residencies at Queen’s College Tower Studio (Melbourne, 2003), at Bains::Connective (Brussels, 2004, with David Young and Rosemary Joy), at Bundanon (Southern NSW, 2007 and 2016) and at Varuna, the National Writers’ House (Katoomba, 2016).
As an editor Cynthia specialises in non-fiction projects. She has helped to bring to publication scholarly monographs and collections for publishers based in Australia, Europe, UK and the USA (view Cynthia’s editing portfolio here). Since 2005 she has been a full member of Editors Victoria (a branch of the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd). She is also a member of PEN Melbourne, having served on the committee for a decade from 2006. In 2014 she was an official delegate to the 80th PEN International Congress hosted by Central Asia PEN in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Cynthia is likewise a longtime member of Graduate Women Victoria, annually assisting with GWV’s program of scholarships and bursaries for Victorian women.
Cynthia graduated in 1992 from the University of Melbourne with a First Class Honours degree in history and art history; she was awarded the Margaret Kiddle Prize and the Felix Raab Prize in European History. She pursued further studies in Italian Renaissance history at Monash University with Professor Bill Kent. An Australian Foundation for Studies in Italy award made possible living and studying in Rome and Florence during 1995. In 2010 Cynthia was commissioned by Monash University to document the first decade of the Monash University Prato Centre—she collaborated with Jo-Anne Duggan, the Centre’s first artist in residence, on the book A Site of Convergence: Celebrating 10 Years of the Monash University Prato Centre, which has been characterised as ‘something of a miracle of institutional history’.
In 2023, together with David Young, Cynthia offered a new series of workshops centred on reflective writing and the body (see further info here). Since 2018 Cynthia has been guiding workshops for writers of all levels of experience, foregrounding an experiential approach, and the premise that creativity is inseparable from an open state of being.
In 2017 Cynthia lectured in the Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) course at Deakin University. She has taught European and Italian Renaissance history at Monash University and at the University of Melbourne; also at Monash she has taught art history in the Department of Theory of Art and Design. She has been a guest lecturer at the Centre for Ideas, Victorian College of the Arts; in the School of Art History and in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne; in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, and at the National Gallery of Victoria.