Meet Our Team!

While our permanent team members are the backbone of The PumpHouse, it’s our Front of House and Tech superstars who are the heart! They breathe life into every audience experience with incredible warmth and hospitality. In this blog, you’ll get to know some of our remarkable Front of House and Tech superstars – our PumpHouse whānau – and the attributes that make them truly amazing. Next time you’re at the theatre, be sure to look out for their friendly faces!

CHRISTINE BALL

My name is Christine and I am one of the casual box office/front of house staff at The PumpHouse Theatre. I am currently pursuing my dream of becoming an actor professionally. I have been a part of community theatre in Auckland since I was 9 years old and have performed in a lot of shows since. I was in 4 shows last year, 3 of which were performed at The PumpHouse. I have also just finished directing my first show ‘Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die’ by Abby Howells, which was also performed at The PumpHouse. So as you can tell, I LOVE theatre and I can’t stay away from The PumpHouse. When I have a moment where I’m not at work or at rehearsals, I love going for walks along the beach, going around local Op shops. I also enjoy going to Armageddon Expo conventions, collecting Lego, and watching The Lord of the Rings films.

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

It’s so hard to just pick one favourite thing! As I’ve said I work and perform there, so it’s basically my second home. I have to say that the location is amazing, I love being able to look out and see the beautiful lake and the swans, it’s like its own little world. I love being in a building that holds so much history, I am always discovering new things about it. And I just love the feeling you get when you’re there, and you’re surrounded by people who have the same feeling. It’s a very special place.

What’s something you’re really good at?

Oh that’s a hard question…Building Lego? That counts as a skill right? Because I can build Lego pretty fast, especially the big sets. I have a knack for organising things like trips, parties, events. Oh, and I’m great at remembering movie quotes.

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

Oh no, another hard question! That’s tricky when I love pretty much everything about theatre. But my top 2 would have to be Musicals and Comedy…but I also enjoy a bit of Drama. Basically anything that can make me feel a range of emotions in one sitting, will make me happy.

EMERSON O’REGAN

My name is Emerson, I’m a History and Anthropology student at UOA. I play a lot of “cosy video games” like Stardew Valley and Minecraft, and I would really like to end up working somewhere in the heritage sector; hopefully in museums or archives!

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

My favourite thing about the Pumphouse is the stories that come out of it and the whānau we have within the walls.

What’s something you’re really good at?

I am really good at procrastinating! If you need something done quickly, don’t ask me 😄 I’ll probably play video games instead!

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

My favourite style of theatre is any play that breaks the fourth wall! I like to be included!

VETTINIA ROSS

My family comes first, but theatre is a pretty close second. I enjoy keeping fit, and trained as a Pilates instructor a few years ago. I love living near the sea and our wonderful beaches – I challenge myself to do the midwinter swim each year (I don’t always rise to the challenge though!) I can tell you all the best places to buy ice cream – one of my favourites is Beach Café, Takapuna.

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

I love the venue itself, its uniqueness, and the fact that wherever you sit you get a really good view of the stage – even with small children! The people are each pretty special too 😊

What’s something you’re really good at?

I’m really good at procrastinating and overthinking things. My neighbour says my home baking is really yummy and I make exceptionally moreish fudge too!

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

Musicals. Even after touring for over two years with 42nd Street I never got tired of it.  I’ll happily go and watch anything. The standard of local community theatre is of such a high calibre. I’m in awe of one-person shows – how do they remember all those lines?! A stand out for me was Cassandra Woodhouse in Hanna – can’t wait to see her in Prima Facie later this year.

ZARA RIDLEY

My name is Zara, I completed a diploma in film and television in 2023. I have been involved in theatre tech since I was 14 years old.
Outside of work, I enjoy singing in choir and skating.

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

My favourite thing about the Pumphouse is the atmosphere that makes the place feel like home.

What’s something you’re really good at?

I enjoy playing drums in my free time.

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

My favourite theatre genre is murder mystery. Agatha Christie is one of my favourites.

ADAM EASTHAM

Hey, I am Adam and I love performing arts and working with children. I am working on getting a teaching diploma so I can teach Musical Theatre and I can combine the best of both worlds.

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

My favourite thing about The PumpHouse is the people that I get to work with. Every single person there is always so kind, caring and considerate. I love working with my PumpHouse family and I am honoured to be a part of something so amazing where theatre touches the community.

What’s something you’re really good at?

I am really good at singing and acting, whenever I have downtime you’re most likely to find me singing in my room at the top of my lungs (sorry Mum and Dad) or on stage in one of the local theatres. I’ve been singing and acting as long as I can remember and I hope to never stop.

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

My favourite theatre genre would have to be musical theatre without a doubt, not only do you get to meet amazing people but you get to sing act and dance – the three things I love most.

MATTHEW DIESCH

Actor, director, photographer, intimacy coordinator, you name it – if it pays I’ll do it!

What’s your favourite thing about The PumpHouse?

It’s a beautiful place and has 3 brilliant and different spaces to perform in.

What’s something you’re really good at?

Hmmmm, there’s nothing I’m as good at as I’d like to be.

What’s your favourite theatre genre/style?

I like something a bit dark.

The Solo Spectacle – The Magic of One-Person Shows

We are excited to have two one-woman shows coming to The PumpHouse Theatre this May and June!

Each production brings its own unique flavor: from the uproarious comedy of My Brilliant Divorce featuring the legendary Jackie Clarke, to the poignant depths of Prima Facie masterfully performed by Cassandra Woodhouse.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jackie & Cassandra to delve deeper into their experiences performing in a one-woman show. Let’s meet them!

JACKIE CLARKE

Jackie Clarke is renowned for her maverick entertainment style, whether it’s treading the boards (Mamma Mia, Once), making music with her friends (The Lady Killers, When The Cat’s Been Spayed) appearing on the goggle box (judging NZ Idol) or MCing events. In 2018 Jackie was awarded an MNZM for services to the entertainment industry. She’s an all-round choice wahine who’s graced our stage & screens for over 40 years.

PumpHouse regulars will recognise her from a very popular season of the one-woman-play Shirley Valentine in 2021. Recently Jackie has toured her solo cabaret Jackie Goes Prima Diva to the nooks and crannies of rural NZ through the Arts on Tour New Zealand initiative. She also debuted Rock Follies Forever with Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Laura Daniel, performed a concert series with opera tenor Simon O’Neill and baritone Tim Beveridge, and celebrated 19 years singing in The Lady Killers with Tina Cross & Suzanne Lynch.

Jackie is a stalwart of musical theatre in this country (Anything Goes, Chess, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Porgy & Bess, and Sweet Charity). She has toured with rock ‘n’ roll royalty like Dave Dobbyn and Annie Crummer as well as performing with those legendary ‘bands’ the NZSO and the APO. Jackie has been a member of Jubilation Choir for 23 years & toured with Kids For Kids for 8 years.

TV work includes guest hosting The Project, appearances in The Jacquie Brown Diaries, core cast roles in comedy shows Skitz & The Semisis, presenting docos, hosting Saturday Live, and judging Showcase.

CASSANDRA WOODHOUSE

Cassandra has been in the entertainment industry for 20 years, having worked professionally on stage, film, and as a model. Cassandra is the founder of NZ Theatre Company which was born of the passion to create a company that supports, develops and sustains the arts. A strong advocate of mental health, Cassandra is committed to establishing an environment that promotes the wellness of artists and society through strong, conscious storytelling and providing employment opportunities that enable artists to feel supported & and sustained to further develop their craft and artistic careers.

From 2022 – 2023 Cassandra produced and performed a nationwide sell-out tour of the one-woman show HANNA by Sam Potter connecting her to thousands of people across NZ and with whom she shared an intimate, unforgettable and heartfelt experience with both on and off the stage. Her ability to hold space for audience members after sharing stories that can expose a lot of vulnerability is a gift that has her being welcomed back to venues all across NZ.

Can you tell us a bit about the solo show you’re in, and the themes or messages explored in your show?

JACKIE: The show is My Brilliant Divorce written by Irish playwright Geraldine Aron. It’s a very, very funny & moving one-woman play that’s been performed all over the world, with great success. Essentially it’s about emotional resilience I guess? Angela, a middle-aged woman gets her act together after her husband goes through a mid-life crisis and leaves her for a much younger woman. Her journey is madcap, messy, occasionally brutal and always entertaining. The play has been described as being a stand-up tragedy or a kind of mid-life Alice in Wonderful. It’s very honest, deliciously daft and I get to lean into my physical comedy bones- which so far in rehearsals has been great fun. But it also contains a lot of truths that I know will resonate hugely with the audience. I love the fact it gives a voice to an often invisible, often trivialised sector of our society; middle-aged women!!

CASSANDRA: Prima Facie explores socially impactful themes of sexual assault, the justice system, law, gender discrimination, power, patriarchy, consent, truth, survivor versus victim, and a call to action.

Have you performed in a one-woman show before? If yes, what was that experience like?

Jackie Clarke

JACKIE: I had the pleasure of doing Shirley Valentine 4 years ago, here at the Pumphouse. It was one of the most satisfying but petrifying experiences of my performing career. I’m more used to singing than acting, so even doing a non-musical was a challenge for me- let alone a one-woman show. But I find comedy pieces are very musical- once you figure out the rhythms of the various scenes and the ‘melodies’ of the themes and the ’tonal ranges’ of the characters etc, I could make sense of it. I’m always joking to my friends that I’m keeping Alzheimer’s at bay by taking on another solo show – but its kinda true. At 58, I want to keep doing work that challenges me and scares me. There is no one to catch you if you falter but I loved the experience. I could never relax a second, never take the arc of the play and Shirley for granted, BUT if you live like a monk during the season of the play and do NOTHING else, you have enough energy to give it its due. Through Shirley Valentine, I found a great team in director Janice Finn & producer Louise Wallace. We have a lot of faith/trust in each other, so I’m happy to go on another exhausting, petrifying but exhilarating journey with them for My Brilliant Divorce.

CASSANDRA: Yes, I produced and performed HANNA from 2022 – 2023 all across NZ. The experience was the greatest challenge and growth opportunity as it was my first one woman show and nothing can quite prepare you for the bravery, commitment and passion it takes to carry a show on your own. What really supported me was knowing the story is always in the room and that I am holding that experience up for others who have had the lived experience, of whatever the themes are that the play explores, and I’m providing a place for their stories to feel seen and heard. And for those who don’t directly resonate with the piece, through empathy they are opened to a world they may not have known before. Art really does have a tremendous healing power.

Are there any particular benefits or challenges you experience performing a one-woman show vs an ensemble show?

JACKIE: The benefit of the one-woman show is it’s like climbing Mt Everest- so if you knock the b’…ard off, it’s immensely satisfying. In the end, though, it’s never a one-woman work – there is a team behind you helping build the performance and shape the character and the production- you’re the only one on stage, but you’ve had the benefit of a trusted inner sanctum getting you to the peak of the Mt. What you miss of course is having fellow performers to bounce off. As a harmony singer, I’m naturally someone who likes to surrender to an ensemble to make something more beautiful than the sum of its parts. And in an ensemble there are the dual satisfactions of settling into a scene and having it ‘play’ to perfection, but also playing a scene and letting something unexpected from a fellow actor take you somewhere new. In a solo show, you can still surprise yourself though – allowing the text to come out of you with different nuances.

Cassandra Woodhouse

CASSANDRA: The benefits are that you can spend a lot more time on the show perhaps than you would with an ensemble piece. You’re not reliant on others to rehearse with so you can inoculate yourself in your own creative world and build the show which is what I really love. I have beautiful rituals around my creative process so I love the sacredness of being able to enter that world whenever I want.

The challenges would be, because it is only you, there is no one else to get you on that stage! Mindset work becomes vital as you are your own team – motivating yourself, cheering yourself on, reflecting on the show. Again though, the audience becomes a vital part of the experience as they are the ones who were out there with you, in that moment of time, sharing that experience so like life, it becomes a special shared experience.

How do you prepare for the emotional demands of portraying multiple characters on stage?

CASSANDRA: Great question as I am deep in the process of this now with Prima Facie!
I think a big part of being emotionally accessible to the demands of the story is really doing the work to understand and uncover the stories behind the emotion that is being called upon. For example, we don’t feel an emotion first, we experience or tell ourselves a story which then creates the emotion. Emotions are a byproduct of the stories we tell ourselves. So doing the work to create those stories in our hearts, often dictated by the writer within the story is key to finding access to the emotional demands of the play.

Are there any techniques you use to keep the audience engaged when you’re the sole performer on stage?

CASSANDRA: Jennifer Ward Lealand, who directed HANNA, shared with me early into our rehearsals together that the responsibility of a one-person show is that you are holding the audience’s energy in the palm of your hand and therefore have to manipulate that energy to keep them engaged. The story holds a big part of this but craft plays a massive role. Vocal variation, diction, energy, fresh thoughts, being in the right here, right now, telling the story as if for the first time, earning your pauses, all these things hold an audience’s attention and the actor really must keep that ball of energy in the air for its audience to stay engaged.

How does the intimacy of a one-woman show differ from ensemble performances in terms of connection with the audience?

JACKIE: Well I love talking to an audience directly – the feeling that this is a one-on-one conversation taking place simultaneously with every individual in the room – a one-woman play allows you to do this. Fourth wall schmourth wall!!! And when it’s really working, you can feel the connection with the audience. It’s an utterly delightful and very powerful feeling.

CASSANDRA: The intimacy differs greatly as the audience of a one-person show becomes the other characters of the story. One of the big creative questions of a one-person show is who the audience is to you. Who are they in relation to the story? As a performer, this is so crucial to know as it dictates much of the storytelling.

What advice would you give to actors who are interested in performing in or creating their own one-person shows?

JACKIE: Go for it! Every actor should have a one-person play in their repertoire! But give yourself as much time as you need to get the text into your mind and body before you start fleshing out the performance. I have to start WAY before scheduled rehearsals in order to have a chance to get the words under my belt. Everything else flows from there.

CASSANDRA: My advice would be that you must do it at least once in your career! Nothing will challenge you more but as with all great challenges comes the most growth so knowing that reward lies on the other side of the experience is priceless. The empowerment you will gain from both creating your own opportunity and stretching yourself creatively will carry you strongly through your career. I also think one-person shows are a reminder of the vital importance of this art form and the stripped-back reminder of how impactful and important that connection with the audience and storytelling is. In a world where we have become so disconnected, creating art that brings people back together is vital to our well-being and to creating change.

Click on the posters to be taken to ticketing info for these shows.

 

 

World Art Day

Written by Mags Delaney-Moffatt

Every year World Art Day on April 15th celebrates the fine arts and promotes awareness of creativity worldwide. The International Association of Art and UNESCO founded World Art Day in 2012. They chose the date of April 15th as it coincided with Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. Known as one of the most famous artists in history, Leonardo da Vinci has become a symbol of peace, freedom of expression, tolerance, and brotherhood.

Anything where humans use their creative skills and imagination to create something in visual form is called ART. Some of the most popular types of art include painting, sculpting, drawing, photography, and calligraphy along with theatre, dance, and music.

Art has many benefits to offer including:
• generating a love for learning and creativity.
• strengthening focus, improving hand-eye coordination, and helping develop problem-solving.
• supporting emotional intelligence and helping people express complex feelings.
• reaching across racial stereotypes and religious barriers and helping to build communities.
• building self-esteem, increasing motivation, and improving holistic health.
• awakening the senses and helping people experience the world in new ways.

Dabbling in lots of different art forms like theatre, photography, and writing has helped me in so many ways to grow my confidence and improve my well-being over the years as well as being fun to do. The best advice I could give anyone would be to get involved with art in some way whether it is as part of a group or just for your own satisfaction.

Painting of The PumpHouse by Lynette Jolicoeur

World Theatre Day

Written by Mags-Delaney-Moffatt

World Theatre Day is on March 27th every year. On this day, founded in 1961, theatre arts are celebrated to raise awareness about their importance in entertainment and the changes they bring to society. Additionally, it helps to promote theatre in all its forms across the world and to make people aware of the importance of theatre.

The theme promoted for World Theatre Day is the same each year: Theatre and a Culture of Peace.

 

Photo by LK Creative: The Biggest Drag Carnival Circus audience at The PumpHouse

Ever since the Greeks, theatre has been one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Live performers, actors, and actresses use different forms of fine arts to present a real experience before an audience in a particular place or on stage. This day provides theatre communities with the opportunity to spread the word about their work to governments and opinion leaders so they are aware of the value and importance of the arts in its various forms.
We at the PumpHouse know how vital getting the word out to the decision-makers and purse-string holders is.

Every year, a World Theatre Day Message is crafted by a different “figure of world stature” and circulated globally. The first World Theatre Day Message was written by Jean Cocteau, a leading artistic figure, in Paris in 1962.

World Theatre Day Message 2024 by JON FOSSE, Nobel Literature Prize Winner 2023

Art Is Peace
Every person is unique and yet also like every other person. Our visible, external appearance is different from everyone else’s, of course, that is all well and good, but there is also something inside each and every one of us which belongs to that person alone—which is that person alone. We might call this their spirit, or their soul. Or else we can decide not to label it at all in words, just leave it alone.
But while we are all unlike one another, we’re alike too. People from every part of the world are fundamentally similar, no matter what language we speak, what skin color we have, what hair color we have.

This may be something of a paradox: that we are completely alike and utterly dissimilar at the same time. Maybe a person is intrinsically paradoxical, in our bridging of body and soul—we encompass both the most earthbound, tangible existence and something that transcends these material, earthbound limits.
Art, good art, manages in its wonderful way to combine the utterly unique with the universal. It lets us understand what is different—what is foreign, you might say—as being universal. By doing so, art breaks through the boundaries between languages, geographical regions, countries. It brings together not just everyone’s individual qualities but also, in another sense, the individual characteristics of every group of people, for example of every nation.
Art does this not by levelling differences and making everything the same, but, on the contrary, by showing us what is different from us, what is alien or foreign. All good art contains precisely that: something alien, something we cannot completely understand and yet at the same time do understand, in a way. It contains a mystery, so to speak. Something that fascinates us and thus pushes us beyond our limits and in so doing creates the transcendence that all art must both contain in itself and lead us to.

I know of no better way to bring opposites together. This is the exact reverse approach from that of the violent conflicts we see all too often in the world, which indulge the destructive temptation to annihilate anything foreign, anything unique and different, often by using the most inhuman inventions technology has put at our disposal. There is terrorism in the world. There is war. For people have an animalistic side, too, driven by the instinct to experience the other, the foreign, as a threat to one’s own existence rather than as a fascinating mystery.
This is how uniqueness—the differences we all can see—disappear, leaving behind a collective sameness where anything different is a threat that needs to be eradicated. What is seen from without as a difference, for example in religion or political ideology, becomes something that needs to be defeated and destroyed.

War is the battle against what lies deep inside all of us: something unique. And it is also a battle against art, against what lies deep inside all art.
I have been speaking here about art in general, not about theater or playwriting in particular, but that is because, as I’ve said, all good art, deep down, revolves around the same thing: taking the utterly unique, the utterly specific, and making it universal. Uniting the particular with the universal by means of expressing it artistically: not eliminating its specificity but emphasizing this specificity, letting what is foreign and unfamiliar shine clearly through.
War and art are opposites, just as war and peace are opposites—it’s as simple as that. Art is peace.

International Women’s Day at The PumpHouse

Written by Mags Delaney-Moffatt, Helena Easey and Meg Andrews – three of the powerhouse women who work at The PumpHouse!

Mags, Helena & Meg

MAGS: “The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ which is pretty apt for The PumpHouse.
Even in its early days, it was women like Peg Escott, Peg Nicholson and Genevieve Becroft who were spearheading the project to save our building and turn it into our now beloved iconic space.

The legacy carries on through the staff who currently work there – 3 fifths of the permanent staff are women (and pretty feisty ones at that!) and most of our casual staff are too!

The arts, like many industries, is overrepresented at the top level by men despite the workforce being mostly women – we like to think we at The PumpHouse go some way to equal things out!

A lot of our Creative Talks programme has featured Women in the Arts who have been successful in their particular disciplines. They all have in common a strong work ethic and a modesty about their achievements – maybe we should shout a little louder!”

HELENA: “It’s great to have a day to celebrate women especially those who have come before us and helped alter our path. As it’s International Women’s Day it’s important to acknowledge those women worldwide who still don’t have a voice, are not allowed an education, and do not have free will.

Plus it would have been my Mum’s birthday today (8th March) – Happy Birthday Mum 😊 miss you.”

MEG: “I adore women, I love celebrating every inch of them! To me, being a woman requires a beautiful kind of resistance, it means overcoming adversity. It is strength and empowerment. It is Trans and Cis, Queer and Straight. It is all-inclusive. It is unapologetic. Being a woman is whatever you want it to be!

The most inspiring wāhine in my world are my Mama & Gramma. They are remarkable humans with unwavering strength, worldly wisdom, immense beauty and unique humour. Their laughter is the most beautiful sound in the world!”

Behind the Curtain: Q&A with Musical Theatre Creatives

If you’ve been missing the magic of musicals at The PumpHouse Theatre, you’re not alone. We were lucky to have Bravi Theatre present the incredible Spring Awakening last year, but apart from that we haven’t had as many of those toe-tapping, heart-swelling musical productions in recent years. That’s why we’re absolutely pumped to announce that this March, we’re shaking things up and bringing not one, but two fantastic musicals to our theatre! 

We interviewed some of the talented individuals who are bringing to life North Shore Music Theatre’s Next to Normal and Masked Productions’ In Pieces, and we are lucky that they have given us a sneak peek into their creative worlds. Let’s meet them!

REBEKKAH SCHOONBEEK-BERRIDGE

As an Auckland-based performer and seasoned arts practitioner with over a decade of experience in the creative arts industry, Rebekkah has developed a keen eye for movement. She’s passionate about movement, life, and storytelling, fueling her repertoire in dance education, choreography, and performance. Recently, she completed a postgraduate diploma from the University of Auckland, which enabled her to expand her knowledge base and delve deeper into dance academia. Her research is currently exploring the potential of New Zealand Sign Language as a choreographic form, hoping to help bridge the gap between the artistic-hearing and non-hearing communities in Aotearoa.

An in-demand professional Dancer, Choreographer, Singer and Actress, Rebekkah has trained in Auckland and later in New York at “Broadway Dance Centre” and, in 2021, completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Dance Studies with Auckland University. Founder of the dynamic dance theatre company LUCK & SCHOONEY, Rebekkah is co-artistic director of the annual spectacle cabaret “Night of the Queer”.

Her choreographic work has been seen in many theatre productions (Basement X-Mas, Rock Follies Forever), musicals (We Will Rock You, West Side Story, Be More Chill), music videos (“Running Wild” – INDIGO, “Currents of Black Blood” – Yan Yates) corporate events (Skycity, Diamond Entertainment), TV (Media Works, DWTS) and competition solo/group performances.

In 2015, she was awarded “Stand Out Female Performer” for her contemporary choreography “The Crickets Have Arthritis” (Short + Sweet Dance Festival), and in 2016, she completed a one-month Contemporary Indigenous Dance Residency at Banff Arts Centre in Canada. In 2019, Rebekkah performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Two Hearts: The Comeback Tour with Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore and is a regular burlesque performer in the Auckland region with appearances in SNUFF Cabaret and Night of the Queer.

Her theatre credits include Shortland Street The Musical (ATC), featuring on the original cast recording album, Pleasuredome the Musical, Chicago (ATC), Persuasion, Artemis, Anything Goes and 42nd Street. She has appeared on television (X-Factor, Jono and Ben), in multiple music videos (Marlon Williams, Stan Walker, The Eversons), and modelled for Les Mills Gym.

She has been heavily involved in New Zealand dance education and teaching for the past ten years. She has developed curriculums for multiple institutions, including NZQA Level 4 & 5 dance curriculum for Excel Performing Arts, with her position as Head of Department for two years.

DAVID ADKINS

David is an experienced professional Director and Producer who also had a long corporate career at a senior level with companies like Warehouse Stationery, OfficeMax, NXP and Ziera Shoes.

But he gave up the corporate world some years ago to focus entirely on the arts. He frequently runs workshops on Directing Musicals around the country and was for some years a guest speaker for the Auckland University MBA Program. David is also an accomplished performer with leading roles in many shows though in recent years his focus has been on Production Management and Directing. Last year David directed Kinky Boots at The Civic in Auckland and the St James in Wellington, rounding off the year directing Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Napier. After Next to Normal he heads to Wellington again to direct We Will Rock You at the St James.

David is also a board member of the well-known theatre production company G&T Productions and is the Development Director of the Amici Trust.

ADEEL SURENDRAN

When it comes to the Auckland theatre scene, Adeel’s a little bit of a newcomer and infrequent flyer – having only done his first ever show (outside of school) about 4 years ago! He started off his journey as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (MPA, 2019), and was delighted to receive a NAPTA award for Best Leading Actor. Since then, Adeel has absolutely loved performing as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors (PPA, 2022 – ACTT award for Best Male in a leading role) and most recently as Harry in Kinky Boots (G&T Productions, 2023) on the Civic Theatre stage. Offstage, he’s a veterinarian who works in both clinical practice and for the government, where he coordinates the animal welfare response in large-scale disasters.

ELINOR COGHLAN

Elinor is an avid lover of the arts, whether she is playing trumpet in a jazz band, or acting on stage, she is constantly involved. At the moment, she is about to debut her first lead role as Natalie In Next to Normal at the PumpHouse from March 9th-23rd! Elinor is also part of the amazing Front of House team at The PumpHouse Theatre.

We had a chat with these talented artists and threw some questions their way. Check out their answers, all in their own words!

What does musical theatre mean to you, personally?

REBEKKAH: Musical theatre has always meant storytelling to me. In many ways, it’s all my favourite ways of telling stories at once, singing, dancing and acting with added theatrical elements. It’s a medium through which I can express myself best, as I love all aspects of Musical Theatre.

DAVID: Musical theatre has always been important in my life, starting from a very young age as a child in local pantomimes and it has been calling to me ever since. Whether a local production or a Broadway extravaganza, a comedy or tragedy, the combination of music, dance and story combine to entertain us, educate us and take us away from our own world for just a few hours. In these challenging times, it feels even more important than ever…

ADEEL: Musicals are my preferred form of escapism! As a veterinarian, I appreciate the opportunity that theatre gives me to step out of my often high-stress clinical role, and take on a new character with an entirely different point-of-view. On top of that, I don’t have to pick because I get the best of three worlds; singing-acting-dancing! Finally, getting to experience an audience light up and respond to what you perform can be very addictive.

ELINOR: Musical theatre is a beautifully unique way to tell a story, in the way it links the emotions of a song to the story you’re watching. I have always loved music, but musical theatre holds an incredibly special place in my heart, likely because of the deep-rooted emotion in each piece. It’s so versatile and there are so many subgenres to explore. The community that the shows form is unmatched as well. I love the Musical Theatre community!!

What is your role in this production (In Pieces / Next to Normal), and what does it entail?

REBEKKAH (In Pieces): My role is the director but also a performer. The production team asked me to direct and perform, which is very lucky for me, as I love to do both roles. My character, Alex, has a few songs mostly separate from the rest of the cast, allowing me to step out and see the bigger picture as the director. As director, I’m in charge of making it all happen on stage and, most importantly, ensuring that the rehearsal process is fun and engaging for everyone so that we can bring out our best work on stage.

DAVID (Next to Normal): I am the Director of the show, which means that I am responsible for all of the creative aspects that you see. I collaborate closely with the Music Director, Choreographer and Vocal Coach’s to create a shared vision which is then imparted to the cast and technical depts, and then eventually through them, to the audience.

ADEEL (In Pieces): In this production, I get to be on stage as Charlie and you will get a few glimpses of different relationships and memories from his life. Charlie’s coming of age and first relationship with Grey (played by Karlo Valdez), is a significant part of his story. Charlie’s a bit of a geek who wears his heart on his sleeve and I’m quite excited to bring him to life.

ELINOR (Next to Normal):  My role in Next to Normal, Natalie Goodman, is the daughter of Diana, a mother with bipolar. Before Natalie was born, Diana and their family faced a tragedy, triggering her disorder. Natalie feels like she is constantly living in her brother’s shadow, even when she is doing all she can to succeed and get approval from her parents. Her story is bittersweet in the end, but heartbreaking throughout.

What drew you to this particular musical?

REBEKKAH: This is not your “normal” musical; it’s a contemporary one. I like that it only shows small pieces of people’s lives, allowing the audience to connect the emotion of the moment. I like that this doesn’t have an interval and is stripped back from your normal flashy musicals; it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles to tell the stories; the stories are told solely through the songs and engagement with the audience. It’s unique in that respect.

DAVID: I was a latecomer to this particular show entering the fray only 5 weeks from opening, but was immediately struck by the powerful messages and deep characterisations required. It is unusually complex for a musical (and I adore the music) and I have loved getting to grips with the story and exploring with the cast how they affect the story and how the story affects them.

ADEEL: The music! It’s got a really fun range of musical styles and is very catchy and easy to get into. Beyond that, I love that I get to be a part of an ensemble cast with many different stories and voices equally woven into one production.

ELINOR: I loved Next to Normal far before I got the role, due to the show’s unique style of music- Very contemporary and rock, but also at moments, heartbreaking and ballad-like. The plot is also incredibly important to me, as my family has a history of mental illness, and seeing the experience recorded through such beautiful music and characters is really special. But the show isn’t all melancholy, as you still see parts of the “normal” life of the characters and the almost “supernatural” presence of the dead son. One of my favorite moments is the closing number of the show, where you see the family in the end, out the other side of the darkness. “There will be light” is the last line of the show, purveying the message that- even in the darkest moments, there will be something good. There will be light.

Favourite musical and why?

REBEKKAH: One of my favourite musicals is “Once.” It relies heavily on music and is set in Ireland, with performers serving as the musicians. It creates a raw atmosphere told from both sides of a situation, and the music is so lovely! I think it’s a musical that not many people know of, and I will always shout it’s brilliant from the rooftops.

DAVID: I’m afraid that my Favourite Musical is always the one I’m working on at the time!

ADEEL: It would have to be Joseph! At 11 years old, that was my first ever musical theatre role, and it was also the first show I did outside of school as an adult. A lot of sentimental value!

ELINOR: This question haunts me… I listen to an ungodly number of musicals, with many different genres and stories. I think it depends on my mood? When I want something dramatic I love the musical Bandstand, but when I’m looking for something chaotic and interesting, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is a great one! When I want something comedic, any of the Starkid shows are perfect, but when I’m looking for something innovative and groovy Songs for a New World is incredible. I could go on and on, but there are a few…

Dream role?

REBEKKAH: A dream role would be playing an ensemble in “Hamilton” because of the storytelling that choreography creates and the show’s brilliance, but the choreography draws me to this role. I also love that indigenous people from all walks of life can connect through this show; being Māori, there aren’t many places to be Māori in a Musical theatre space, so I love it when this is celebrated. But my ultimate ‘dream role’ would be Mary Poppins, given her iconic character and physicality. She’s very to the point but out of love, and I think that side of her also resonates with who I am. It’s one of the first Disney films that really made me go WOW, so the child in me would be happy and privileged if given the chance.

DAVID: I’m kind of living it! I work with a variety of organisations, I get to travel the county directing musicals, I get to work on shows as a production manager, and I get to teach, coach and mentor new directors as they start down their journeys – who could ask for more?

ADEEL: I’ve been quite lucky to have already done a couple of dream roles! Beyond these, maybe Akaash from Bombay Dreams. I’d also have heaps of fun as Shakespeare in & Juliet, and, maybe, a gender-bent K Howard in Six…..

ELINOR: Just like the previous question, there are SO many depending on how i feel, and the genre in question. (let me just refer to my notes-app list of roles: ) I LOVE Sondheim, so anyone in his musicals (Sunday in the Park with George & Sweeney Todd are my favorites) Eurydice in Hadestown (though I’m not the type-cast for it) Natasha from The Great Comet, Veronica from Heathers, and (purely for the beautiful vocals) Francesca from The Bridges to Madison County. (Natalie Goodman was one of my dream roles, so I checked that box!)

What advice would you give to aspiring actors or crew looking to pursue a career in musical theatre?

REBEKKAH: My advice would be to see lots of different shows, talk to people in the industry, and research what fascinates you. Theatre as a storytelling medium is so huge that there’s so much to discover. But also, No amount of workshops alone will get you a career in musical theatre. You must put in the work and love what you do, be curious, and the right things will come along. There are times when it’s tiring but then you remember you have been given the gift to make people feel and teach through this platform, and it’s all worth it. Stay curious 🙂

DAVID: Train, watch, listen and build experience any way that you can. There are numerous New Zealanders working professionally at a very high level in Australia, The West End and Broadway – most of whom started in amateur theatre, so the opportunities are there if you are prepared to undertake the work – and accept the risks along the way. But don’t expect it will always be easy, or that work is just out there waiting for you – you may have to create your own opportunities first or in between.

ADEEL: Step out of your own way. Also, if you’re not having a good time…you’re probably doing something wrong!

ELINOR: In truth, I am still an aspiring actor and singer. Along with simply getting involved in local theatres (or theatres far away, in my case) Listening to as many musicals as you can and finding your niche is really helpful. Not only does it get you more audition material, but it widens your understanding of musical theatre and the different shows that fall under that umbrella. You don’t necessarily have to be a triple threat to get a role (god knows i can’t dance…) you just have to keep an eye out for auditions, sing (and/or dance) loads and put yourself out there! I think there is a misconception that ensemble is a bad thing, but up until this show I was always in ensembles, and it grows your dance, singing and acting skills while getting to be involved in a great show.
If you love musical theatre, don’t let your physical abilities hold you back. The only way to get better is to do. Go do a show!!!

Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge

Elinor Coghlan

Adeel Surendran | Ally Weir (Wired Photography)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR UPCOMING MUSICALS HERE

Celebrating Proud Voices

In this blog, we delve into the kaleidoscopic world of Pride in Aotearoa, shining a spotlight on the stories and experiences of a handful of talented individuals within the Queer community who share a special connection to The PumpHouse Theatre. Let’s meet them!

REBECCA MARY GWENDOLON

Rebecca is a queer comedian, actor and theatre producer. They have lived in Tāmaki Makaurau almost their whole life and they whakapapa to Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto, Ngati Awa and Norfolk Island. Their great performing love is improv because they just love being joyful and silly and chaotic. Rebecca has a close connection to The PumpHouse, regularly producing and performing here with their production companies Late Night Knife Fight, Improverished and Casual First Date.

AMRIT SOMA

Amrit, 27, was born and raised on the Hibiscus Coast. He is widely known as drag queen Lady Armilade and has a 15-year career in dance with notable roles in productions such as Papakura Theatre Company’s Mamma Mia & Dusty: The Original Pop Diva, Pukekohe Performing Arts’ Little Shop of Horrors, Dolphin Theatre’s Kiwifruits and Centrestage Theatre’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His passion for dance and choreography continues to see him working and creating in the Auckland theatre scenes. Amrit is producing and performing in The Biggest Drag Carnival Circus at The PumpHouse later this month!

LAUREN WILSON

Lauren (they/them) is an actor, director, producer, and designer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. They grew up on the North Shore and started performing at The PumpHouse at the age of 5 with their dance school. They went to Victoria University to study theatre and film and lived in the USA and UK working in theatre, film and media. They are currently producing a short film called Adventure’s End which is based on their and the director’s love of the TTRPG community. Lauren is so glad to be part of the film and theatre community, especially now that they are telling stories that are true to their identity.

SOPHIA HEPPER

Sophia is a Kiwi who was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau on the North Shore. She is in her third and final year of a degree in Linguistics and Spanish, and outside of studying she spends most of her time around theatre – whether it’s acting or, more recently, stage managing. She’s currently Vice President of UoA’s Stray Theatre Company, and also works at The PumpHouse! In her free time (when she has it), you’ll usually find her doing jigsaw puzzles, making cosplays, and watching Critical Role.

We had a chat with these talented folks and threw some questions their way. Check out their answers, all in their own words!

What does NZ Pride Month mean to you personally, and how do you typically celebrate it?

REBECCA: I feel like a lot of content makes its way over to Aotearoa from overseas so I absolutely love that we get our own Pride month in Maramarua which is different from the Northern Hemisphere Pride in June. It’s so gorgeous to have our own local events and our own special celebrations in Aotearoa and then to get another dose of online content in June from all the overseas festivals. But in February it’s just for us cool folks in the Southern Hemisphere. I have never produced an event for Pride before so I’m usually just watching other people’s shows and googling to find queer films with happy endings.

AMRIT: I love the opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate, knowing I have created something to unite people, particularly teenagers as there isn’t a lot for them to attend during pride events.

LAUREN: As a non-binary queer person, NZ pride month is a month where I feel like I belong. I get to celebrate and be open with myself and my community. As someone who came out later in life, I want to be in a space where I feel accepted and loved and Pride Month allows me to grow my community through pride. I celebrate it by celebrating myself and my other queer friends.

SOPHIA: Pride Month in NZ is always such an exciting time to get to see a huge range of events that seems to be increasing every year, and getting to celebrate our community in so many different ways and having spaces where you can be unequivocally yourself is really special. I usually always celebrate with friends by going to the Pride March, Big Gay Out, and drag shows. My other favourite thing though is the markets like Queers & Wares – it’s a great way to support local queer artists while also giving myself an excuse to buy cute arts and crafts!

Are there any specific events or activities during Pride Month that hold special significance for you?

LAUREN: I love going to Big Gay Out as it’s such a great day out for everyone. I also love attending any pride theatre events and supporting Queer artists, I can not wait for such events as Legacy 7 and Can I Get an Underground Location and A Mythical Creature? Also, I plan to attend the Rainbow Parade for the first time!

SOPHIA: The Big Gay Out – I’ve been going since I was 15 and have really special memories of the times I’ve been. One time I literally convinced my mum to pick me up early from school camp and drive me to the other side of Auckland to take me because I refused to miss out! (Thanks Mum, and sorry to the teachers who I told that I had an ‘important event’ to go to)

REBECCA: Not really I guess but I think it is important to remember that Pride is not just a celebration but it’s also a protest, and to reflect on how there is still a long way to go before we have equality for our Queer whānau globally, and within Aotearoa. I think still allowing yourself to be joyful, and to create space for joy even in the face of hardship can be a really powerful protest. Continuing to believe in yourself and your community against the odds is so powerful.

In what ways do you think Pride celebrations and support have evolved over the years, and what positive changes have you observed?

LAUREN: Pride has evolved hugely thanks to the influence of mainstream media and acceptance from other communities. It being celebrated in the mainstream means more and more people are comfortable to come out and explore their sexuality and gender and it is not seen as a negative. Especially as someone who is genderqueer, I feel more accepted at celebrations now as before I had to hide who I was.

REBECCA: This is a really hard question! Obviously, Pride originally started out as a protest movement by the minority against an oppressive majority, and now it’s a massive global celebration with financial support from the council and everything, which is a huge change over the years. I think there’s definitely an important ongoing discussion about what Pride today really means and the difference between actual tangible support of the queer community and performative support just to make money off Pride. Issues like police involvement and big corporations being involved in Pride events are topics of ongoing discussions in the community. I think that no matter what, the fact that Pride is now a big annual festival that everyone knows about and everyone can get involved in is so amazing. Just looking at how many people attend an event like Big Gay Out every year is so cool.

How can allies effectively support and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community during NZ Pride Month and beyond?

REBECCA: Allies are so important because they can use their voices in situations where members of the Queer community might not be able to safely. If you’re in a group situation and someone makes a homophobic joke or a transphobic joke, you can tell that person off without putting yourself at risk of a personal attack! That’s huge! Please do that! Call out your mates if they make jokes at queer people’s expense. And amplifying queer voices with your cash dollars is one of the most effective things you can do. Is there an awesome event happening with a queer team behind it or on stage? Go see it! Have you heard that maybe a company is rainbow-washing and pretending to be more supportive of the queer community than they actually are? Don’t give them your money!

SOPHIA: I think listening and learning is so important– Pride Month in particular is such a great time to learn about new identities, about local queer history, about legislations that affect the community and what to do about them. As well as that though, have fun and support events that uplift queer voices and creators!

AMRIT: Attend shows with an open mind and open heart.

LAUREN: Allies need to support the community by allowing the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community to be heard and not speaking over them. Give them the platform and listen, learn, and grow.

Are there any specific themes or issues within the queer community that you think should receive more attention and discussion during Pride Month?

LAUREN: We need to bring more awareness of the gender inequality of the community and discussion of how our Trans and Non-Binary communities are treated. There is still so much misinformation and judgment out there which makes it hard for people to come out and be their true selves.

REBECCA: During Pride Month (and always) it’s so huge for all of us in the community to just be here for each other. Transphobia being perpetuated by queer people? None of that, please! Bi erasure from within our own community? We don’t want that either! Forgetting about our smaller communities like our Intersex whanaunga and our Asexual pals? Nope, we’re not doing that! Remembering we’re all in a community together and really supporting and uplifting one another despite how different our experiences of being queer maybe is so huge. Just like every community ever, we’re stronger together.

SOPHIA: Intersectionality is always so important in activism and I think it’s crucial to focus on groups that are disproportionately discriminated against. Our trans friends & whānau are having their livelihoods put at risk every day around the world and in Aotearoa, so speaking out against transphobia is more important than ever. Pride wouldn’t exist without BIPOC trans people fighting for our community.

What show or event are you most looking forward to seeing this Pride month?!

AMRIT: My show at The PumpHouse! (Find out more here!)

SOPHIA: As a huge D&D nerd, for sure Improverished’s Pride edition of Can I Get an Underground Location and a Mythical Creature? which is their D&D-themed improv show!

LAUREN: Definitely Can I get an Underground Location and A Mythical Creature? and Legacy 7 and the Drag Carnival Circus. I am a huge DnD nerd and love the circus and Legacy 7 is featuring Queer and Non Binary stories.

REBECCA: Scrolling through the Auckland Pride website is a bit of a nightmare honestly there’s just so much great stuff happening to look forward to! I think this may be the year that Auckland Pride has had the most improv events so that’s pretty massive. In addition to our show (Can I get an Underground Location and A Mythical Creature?) there’s some other awesome stuff including Ungartered Territory at the Covert Theatre and Big Queer Improv Party at the Basement. Yay for queer improv!

Check out our Pride at The PumpHouse season here

Take me to the full list of Auckland Pride events

Shakespeare in a Week 2024: RECAP

By Mags Delaney-Moffatt

Well, what a week that was! The sun shone in the sky and the stars shone on the stage.

At the beginning of the week there were 17 not very sure of each other individuals going through the process of getting to know one another (and me) and learning about a Shakespeare play they weren’t too familiar with. By Friday they were as tight a band of performers as I have ever worked with.

The Friday night performance was excellent because during the week everyone had worked together so well.

They came up with ideas for their characters and how they interacted with each other.

The most telling comment made by one of them was how great it was to be with others, who like them, were passionate about performance, as in their drama classes some students were just in it ‘for an easy pass.’  (That upset me to hear)

Drama is such a powerful tool – it brings about a growth in confidence, develops teamwork and leadership as well as much enjoyment.

From Monday’s ‘I’ll never learn all those lines’ to Friday’s ‘Can we do this again next week?’ it was a real pleasure to be a part of it for me to see young actors develop not only as characters but as people.

I think old William Shakespeare would have been as delighted as I was to see his work brought to life in such a joyous way.

Drama in the Community

Written by Mags Delaney-Moffatt

As part of my community engagement programme I love being asked to go out to schools to help them to access performance or just to experience the wonderful world of drama.

This year has been a little different as I have been privileged to work with a fabulous group of people whose school days were a while ago. The Northbridge Village Theatre Group was set up by residents who enjoy theatre.

I was invited first of all to go speak about The PumpHouse and it’s history and talking about the work I do as part of Shakespeare in a Week I was asked back to do some ‘drama’ with the group.

First we tackled some Shakespeare in the form of the Witches scene from the Scottish Play. We worked the words into a soundscape which was really atmospheric and ethereal. It was such a fun experience that the group asked if they could do more.

So I reached into my scripts bag and brought out my version of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (which was performed here at The PumpHouse on three occasions pre COVID).

It was decided to perform as a ‘staged reading’ – with hats for different characters and sound effects.

The group were cast by invitation and ‘volunteering’ – some people took on two or three parts. We even had a dedicated ‘sound effects’ person, Ira, who was in charge of the rattling chains and the dinging bells. The group thoroughly enjoyed the experience and and want to do more next year.

Drama is such a powerful tool – it brings people together as well as building confidence and esteem – that’s why I love it so much! I am hoping to get out and about in the community again next year – happy to be invited to come and work with your group.

Unwrapping the History of Kirihimete in the Theatre

The festive season is a time of joy, merriment, and traditions – much like the theatre experience! In fact, theatre has played a significant role in shaping the festive spirit that surrounds Kirihimete.

Of course, there’s the obvious: biblical stories like the Nativity story have been staged frequently throughout history at religious festivals. The Yuletide also shines bright in the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays, Twelfth Night, which takes its name from the tradition of celebrating the twelfth night of Christmas. While the play isn’t about Christmas, it is often performed at Christmastime or with rich festive themes.

The 19th century marked a golden age for Kirihimete, thanks in large part to the Victorian Era’s enthusiasm for festive celebrations. Charles Dickens, with his timeless classic A Christmas Carol (written in 1843), brought the holiday spirit to the forefront of literary and theatrical culture. The story’s themes of redemption and generosity resonated with audiences, and stage adaptations quickly became a holiday tradition the following year (1844). The Christmas that we are familiar with now owes many of it’s origins to Charles Dickens, who is known as the man who “invented” Christmas!

Charles Dickens himself even used to do a reading of A Christmas Carol at Christmas – according to Wikipedia he did it a whopping 127 times until his death (he was only 58 when he died – so that’s a lot of readings!)

Pantomimes are also a huge favourite to be performed at Christmas time. Derived from the Italian commedia dell’arte, pantomimes often feature fairy-tale characters, slapstick humour, and festive themes, providing families with a lighthearted and magical escape during the holiday season. But, why are pantomimes performed at Christmas? There are a few theories! One is that it harks back to Medieval mummers plays. A mummers play was a traditional folk play performed in masks, often inspired by the tale of Saint George and the Dragon, which involved stage fights, magical creatures and humour. Another past Christmas tradition with links to pantomime’s anarchic and liberating spirit is the Tudor Feast of Fools, which was presided over by the Lord of Misrule. One of the main reasons Panto’s are performed at Kirihimete in modern times is likely because they’re mainly tailored to families and children.

And of course, in the 20th century, new technologies brought Christmas theatre into homes across the globe. Radio plays and TV embraced the theatrical Christmas traditions, and Broadway too! Elf: The Musical, Annie, Billy Elliot, and Rent are all musicals with festive themes.

Today, Kirihimete in the theatre continues to thrive, with both traditional and contemporary productions. We are lucky at The PumpHouse to have the beautiful tradition of Tim Bray Theatre Company’s The Santa Claus Show entertaining and enchanting audiences each year.

Tim Bray Theatre Company’s The Santa Claus Show ’23

So if you feel you are lacking in Christmas cheer, perhaps a visit to your local theatre would do a world of good! We guarantee you’ll feel the warmth of shared entertainment and connection to your community, and leave feelin’ that Christmas joy!

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