“The play’s the thing…” to half quote Shakespeare and it would be remiss of me not to include drama in a month-long look at literature from New Zealand. The difficulty is that while novels, short stories and poetry are able to be enjoyed for a long time after they have been published – a play is performed. Its impact is in the experience the audience has with the text. Being an ex-pat I have been able to keep up with new writing from my homeland either through my kindle or during my visits to New Zealand, (I remember to pack my library card more often than I remember my driver’s licence).
The good news is that there are a number of websites and publications that enable us to stay informed about and sample the work of contemporary New Zealand playwrights.
The Playwrights Association of New Zealand website has links to the playwrights and their plays. Founded in 1958 the association supports New Zealand playwrights by holding competitions, assessing their work and publicising their work.
New Zealand Playmarket was founded by Robert Lord, Nonnita Rees, Judy Russell and Ian Fraser in 1973 to encourage the professional production of New Zealand plays. Their purpose is to empower and represent New Zealand playwrights. If you want a script to perform a play these are the people to contact.
In 2016 the book “Here/Now: 8 Plays by Award-Winning NZ Playwrights” was published. It presented a diverse range of playwrights and subjects the plays addressed. The link above is to a review of the book. The book is still available for purchase.
Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand presents a history of New Zealand plays and playwrights. The two playwrights most New Zealanders would know are Bruce Mason and Roger Hall. Bruce Mason is a playwright who is often studied in literature courses in secondary schools. His work would explore the often painful aspects of Maori and European cultures colliding with each other. Roger Hall, on the other hand, is known for his popular comedies and his ability to make us laugh at ourselves.
This is a quick tour of New Zealand plays and playwrights. I hope, if you are interested you will visit the websites I have included. Dramatic performance is a powerful way to allow people to see themselves.
Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego