Dramatic turn as city hosts theatre summer school

Expert advice . . . Design course tutor Julian Southgate (left) inspects Geoff Cunningham-Beynon’s set mock-up diorama. PHOTO: LARA MACGREGOR.

Timaru took centre stage last week as people from around the country took part in Theatre New Zealand’s intensive summer school course.

Held at The Playhouse in Church St, it was the first time the week-long course had been held in 33 years.

Theatre NZ president Paul Percy said the organisation felt it was time to reintroduce the summer school and make it part of the theatre landscape.

‘‘We felt that within the industry, particularly in our community-centred industry, that we needed to offer some training and opportunity.’’

Timaru was the perfect spot to host the course.

‘‘People ask why Timaru, and I say why not? There wasn’t a why. Timaru has a very good theatre complex that is central, it is a lovely area and very strong on the arts.’’

The course was attended by 36 people, some travelling from as far as Auckland and Queenstown to take part.

Back to school . . . People with a love of drama attended a Theatre New Zealand intensive summer school at The Playhouse in Timaru. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/THEATRE NEW ZEALAND

The course featured three different areas of theatre — attendees could choose either the directing, acting or designing courses.

The acting course was led by Bryan Aitken, an original company member of the Court Theatre in Christchurch and someone who has been heavily involved in New Zealand Theatre as both an actor and director for many years.

Lara Macgregor was the tutor for the directing course.

She trained in New York and spent 10 years there as an actor. In the past, she has been associate artistic director at Christchurch’s Court Theatre and was artistic director at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin.

Looking after the design course was Julian Southgate, who has been the designer at the Court Theatre for more than two decades.

Mr Percy said feedback so far had been excellent and another summer school had already been booked for The Playhouse for next year.

‘‘It was a really good process and we definitely want to expand on it for next year.’’

Acting course tutor Mr Aitken said the week had been very successful.

‘‘The response has been so positive; it’s really, really heartening.

‘‘We used to hold a residential adult summer school at Lincoln University.

‘‘It fell over for some reason and I’ve just fought for the last few years to get it back up and running again, so it was gratifying for me to have such a good turnout and for it to be so successful.

‘‘It wasn’t just adults who love to do theatre in their spare time, like people play sport, but we had young people in transition wanting to audition for the major performing art courses and some people who had graduated and wanted a refresher and top up and a lot of teachers from Drama NZ wanting to come for their professional development.

‘‘So the range of people that were attracted to wanting to do it was quite extraordinary and diverse and that was also very satisfying.’’

Hard at work . . . Local Aidan Theatre founder and director Kimble Henderson takes part in the design course. PHOTO: LARA MACGREGOR

Mr Aitken said Theatre NZ might in future consider streaming the course to have beginners, intermediate and masterclass courses in acting and directing as well as a musical theatre stream.

South Canterbury Drama League manager Sharleyne Diamond said it had been great for the region to host the summer school.

‘‘It’s been really exciting from our point of view because it brings a whole lot of people from different societies from all over the country to here.

‘‘The Playhouse has some really good facilities and I learnt that a lot throughout the week.

‘‘People kept popping into the office telling me so.

‘‘To know that if they carry it on beyond next year and it becomes an annual thing to be held here is great.’’

She said she believed it would be a good reminder for South Canterbury on how lucky the region was to have somewhere like The Playhouse.

As the self-appointed ‘‘home of theatre’’, The Playhouse welcomed all things theatre related to the region, she said.