NZ Theatre Month announced for 2018
This week esteemed playwright, Roger Hall, has confirmed the celebration of the first ever New Zealand Theatre Month in September 2018. He is calling on all theatres big and small from across the country to present a New Zealand work during the month. He is also encouraging presenters, promoters and creators to participate with talks, debates and displays that inform both a celebration and an education of the incredible amount of theatre that is created on our shores, and the high standard to which it is produced.
A little known fact - the history of New Zealand theatre traces back to 1848 when the play Marcelina by James Marriott was written and performed. This wealth of over 150 years of thespian history remains largely unknown and uncelebrated. It is scarcely mentioned in our history books or present in our museums. Roger Hall has championed this mission to shine a light on our productive theatre industry. In this interview, we talk to Roger about the drive behind this mission.
"Theatre in New Zealand has never been so strong! We don't seem to be proud of our history. Or even of our present. We don't have a national voice. It's time we did." Roger Hall
Hannah Mackintosh: Firstly, this is a very exciting announcement for the theatre world that we will be celebrating a whole month dedicated to New Zealand theatre in September 2018. I understand that you have been advocating for this for a number of years now. What is the personal drive that has led you to put your energies into creating a NZ Theatre Month?
Roger Hall: No one else seems to have got round to doing it, so I thought I should while I still have the energy. (I’m not sure I have sometimes, it’s a lot harder than I thought. Thank goodness I have Malcolm Calder on board who is doing nearly all the administration work.) Over the years I got more and more annoyed that NZ Theatre wasn’t being celebrated in this way, and that we have no national voice, and that so many of the public have no idea the range and and amount of theatre we make right throughout the country. In Auckland in particular, there is so much theatre going on that people are unaware of. We even have friends who hadn’t heard of Q Theatre until we took them to Hudson and Halls Live –and this is five years after it opened….
The aim of the month is to ‘celebrate and elevate New Zealand theatre’ and the hope is that theatres all across New Zealand will perform a New Zealand work during this month. Tell me, when you dream your biggest dream of what this could be, what do you see?
That more people go to the theatre than ever, especially those who have never been before (though this will be hard to measure).
That people in theatre have a much better awareness of our theatre history—most of them have no idea how Downstage, Mercury, Court, Fortune and so on came into being.
That we honour our theatre heroes…living and dead.
That musems will finally realise New Zealand Theatre deserves display space—Te Papa especially.
Behind every great achievement there is always a mountain of uncertainty, stress, setbacks and failures that necessitate arriving at the final product. What have been some of the major roadblocks or frustrations that you have overcome to reach the point of being able to make this announcement of a NZ Theatre Month?
A group of us tried to set it up, but committees are hopeless ways of getting things done and we couldn’t agree so we disbanded. I remembered how I established New Zealand Writers’ Week back in 1989, mostly by myself, and it worked because I made all the decisions and no one disagreed with them. Thousands of people attended sessions during the week. So at the beginning of this year I thought, “Bugger it, I’ll do it.”
And, if I may be so cheeky, for those of us wanting to know more about the man behind the successful playwright… Would you be prepared to share a story of failure with our audience that you have experienced on your road to success?
I would but you have to come and hear my talk “The Ones That Got Away” which is about several of my failures. (Auckland Theatre Company Sunday 24 September 2.30pm; and Tauranga Baycourt Community and Arts Centre, Saturday 14 October 4.30pm.)
This celebration of theatre is framed as “a chance to celebrate the theatre heroes, local as well as national, dead as well as living.” Who is your personal hero and why?
Bruce Mason. A fine playwright, ahead of his time, and before professional theatre got firmly established, so he didn’t get many productions. So he wrote The End of the Golden Weather, a solo piece that he performed himself and toured around the country, and presented it more than a thousand times…. I still remember seeing him perform it in his first year doing it. Eleven years ago I arranged for a scene from it, set on Christmas Day on Takapuna Beach, to be presented on Christmas Day at Takapuna and it’s been going ever since, and a firm tradition for the North Shore.
You are quoted saying, “We don’t have a national voice. It’s time we did.” Why do you believe it is important that there is a national voice for theatre?
To develop a united pride in what we do…and have done.
Finally, who are you hoping will come on board with the inaugural celebration of NZ Theatre Month and how can people get involved?
All the main theatres are on board; and many of the community theatres. We’re hoping many of them will do a New Zealand work at some time during that month. But also take the chance to celebrate their own history, and host a lot of activities in addition to actual performances. Maybe panels or open days to celebrate the skills of those who work behind the scenes and who hardly ever get enough recognition: the designers, the stage managers, the lighting designers and operators.
New Zealand Theatre Month – Celebrating and Elevating New Zealand Theatre
The month will run nationwide from 1st – 30th of September, 2018
All Theatre Initiatives will be invited to present in this time.
To get involved, email: firstname.lastname@example.org