Downstage Upfront: A 40th Anniversary Biography
In its first 40 years, from conception to maturity, through stages of growth both painful and pleasurable, DownstageNew Zealands first and longest running regional professional theatre companyhas lived an extraordinary life.
This large and lavishly illustrated biography is published to celebrate Downstages birthday. It covers all the dramas and larger-than-life personalities that have characterised Downstages life, and the many great productions such as Colin McColls internationally acclaimed relocation of Ibsens Hedda Gabler to Karori.
A major contribution to New Zealands cultural history.
We achieve and sustain distinction through all the performing, visual, aural and literary arts. Film, television drama and theatre invariably involve all the art forms. Our homegrown feature films are the windows through which most of the world sees us with greatest clarity. Television is the modern marketplace where we gather to get the latest news, hear local and exotic stories told, and otherwise be entertained while stall-holders ply their wares. And live theatre will always remain the medium where practitioners have full control over, and responsibility for, delivering the goods from go to whoa in the immediate presence of their audience. Theatre, therefore, is where the essential crafts are best learned by those who also seek employment in film and television to build and sustain their careers. From an industry perspective, then, if theatre doesnt prioritise the creation of original work amid the productions of classics and contemporary plays from elsewhere, it is not playing its crucial role in the bigger picture.
From the introduction.
Praise for Downstage Upfront
...we owe Smythe our considerable thanks, and no Wellingtonian theatre-goer should be without it.
Roger Hall DOMINION POST
...to have collated 40 years of material, in a region where archives are often incomplete and memories are so notoriously unreliable or often self-serving, John Smythe has done a remarkable thing. [Downstage Upfront] is an elegant, artistic and very useful job.
Elric Hooper THE PRESS
Downstage has gone through near-obliteration more than once, economic disasters, major shifts in direction, ongoing reinvention of itself and being at the cutting edge of exploring major cultural shifts in New Zealand society. Smythe details all this, along with the actors and plays that make up the history of this survivor. Consistently interesting...
Mike Crowl OTAGO DAILY TIMES
John Smythe's freelance career as a writer, actor, director, teacher and theatre critics spans all four decades of Downstage's life to date. His professional acting career began at Downstage. After attending the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia he stayed on there for a further 15 years, working as an actor, writer and director. John returned to New Zealand in 1985 with a contract to develop the scripts for a historical television miniseries. When that didn't get made, he wrote it as a novel, The Peace Monster (Vintage 1991). He has been theatre critic for the National Business Review since 1999. When he can afford to buy the time, he continues to develop scripts for stage and screen.