A recently completed week-long course in Timaru is aiming to make the town the centre stage of theatre training in New Zealand.

Theatre New Zealand Te Pūtoi Whakaari o Aotearoa ran the Adult Intensive Theatre Summer School at the South Canterbury Drama League [SCDL] on Church St with actors, directors and designers from across the motu participating.

TNZ president Paul Percy said they are looking into running the course annually in Timaru with the potential for it to expand into events and plays.

“We have got a fantastic response to the course,” he said.

“This is the first time the [TNZ] course has come back in 33 years. We wanted to fill the need for it in community theatre.

“We hope to run this every year. It’s just been a great success to see different parts of the theatre community learn the art of working together.

“It’s also a place for like-minded people to enjoy each other’s company.”

Percy said the SCDL’s facilities were perfect for the course and Timaru was a central location for many in the South Island.

“When people think ‘I think I need theatre training’ they would think about coming to Timaru in January,” he said.

He added there was the potential to host a festival in the future and even put on a play for the Timaru community at the end of each training.

The tutor for acting and course director, Bryan Aitken, said it was about “finding triggers” with those attending and giving participants tools they can use to advance their acting, directing and designing careers.

“This [the course] used to happen regularly before and this is the first year we have got it back up and running,” Aitken said.

“People understand what a sports clinic is and this is a theatre clinic. It’s an all-round clinic where all [actors, directors and set designers] work together.”

Aspiring actor James Morland from Greytown, Wairarapa, said he received a scholarship to take part in the course and came to Timaru to learn more about the art.

He said he had learnt “heaps” from others at the course who were from different backgrounds and at various experience levels.

“The great thing about one of these courses is that you can open up and feel vulnerable,” he said.

“There is no pressure to learn, and you get feedback that is not negative.”

Yvonne Lorkin, chief tasting officer of wine for WineFriend and drinks editor for Dish Magazine, said the week-long course was an “amazing refresher” for her in terms of some old skills.

“It was a rich way of absorbing new modern theatre techniques,” Lorkin said.

She also appreciated the ability to work in conjunction with the directors and set designers during the course and have fun.

She said she had learnt a lot from others on the course and said it was good it was not just a “teacher-led” course.

“Everyone brings something to this,” she said.

Directing tutor and NZ actor, director, dramaturg (script adviser for theatre) and coach, Lara Macgregor, said it had been a “good and intense week”.

Macgregor plays Moira Pierce, the talent agent mum of Shortland Street’s Monique Strutter (Courtenay Louise).

Trained in America, Macgregor returned to television and movies, appearing on Netflix dramas One Of Us Is Lying and Clickbait, Prime Video’s The Wilds and in Alice Englert’s critically acclaimed dark comedy Bad Behaviour, which featured at this year’s NZ Film Festival.

Macgregor said she remembers attending a theatre summer school when she was 15, and it was an “indelible memory” for her as a teenager.

“It was a real treat being asked to share my knowledge,” she said.

“I hope people can take away tips they can practice and implement in their communities. I enjoyed the week and I tried to provide information for directors at all different levels.

“Everyone remained engaged, and I tried to mix it up with activity and banter.”

Macgregor said she hopes more people sign up for the summer school if it runs again next year and said it was a place where people could find life-long friends.

Designing tutor, Julian Southgate from The Court Theatre, said the week had been “very rewarding” and full-on as designers, allocated a play before the course started, had to read, analyse, understand and annotate the play and come up with a concept design after talking to the directors and actors.

Southgate says he sees a need for a course like this, and he believes it’s important to increase the confidence in actors, directors and set designers.

He added that the course was a place where people would learn there’s not one right way to work and would have freedom.

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