Culture, Performing Arts and Cinema
Lee Tamahori, Vincent Wright, Alan Duff, Alex Grant, Douglas Wright
New Zealandís first professional theater for the dramatic arts, an intimate community theater, opened in Wellington in 1964. The city continues to be the countryís strongest performing-arts center, although Auckland also has a lively theater scene. Drama was long considered an underdeveloped genre of New Zealand writing. Playmarket, a professional writerís agency founded in the early 1970s, encouraged the writing, production, and performance of New Zealand plays. Playwright Roger Hall produced Playmarketís first major commercial successes, Glide Time (1976) and Middle-Age Spread (1977), bringing widespread recognition to New Zealandís community theater movement. The play Foreskinís Lament (1980), by Greg McGee, was also an important benchmark.
In classical dance, ballerina Rowena Othlie Jackson established an international reputation in the 1950s that has yet to be surpassed in New Zealand. Along with Jackson, Alex Grant and Bryan Ashbridge became outstanding dancers of the British Royal Ballet. Douglas Wright became the countryís pioneering exponent of modern dance. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, established in 1946 as the National Orchestra, is the most successful of the countryís major national artistic organizations. New Zealand-born opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa is known as one of the worldís leading sopranos.
Maori cultural performances include traditional dances such as kapa haka, performed by large singing and dancing ensembles. More than 70 of the best ensembles perform in national competition at the Maori Aotearoa Performing Arts Festival, held in various host cities since 1972.
New Zealand filmmakers were active in the early days of cinema, producing about 20 feature films in the 1920s and 1930s. Rudall Hayward is remembered as the countryís most pioneering feature filmmaker during those years. Few films were produced from the 1940s until the early 1970s, when New Zealand filmmaking began to experience a renaissance. Since then many feature films have been produced, some with the help of the government Film Commission, established in 1978. Directors Jane Campion, Lee Tamahori, Vincent Wright, and Peter Jackson have produced some of New Zealandís most well-known contemporary films, including Campionís The Piano (1993); Jacksonís Heavenly Creatures (1994) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the first installment of a film trilogy based on the epic works of writer J. R. R. Tolkien; and Tamahoriís Once Were Warriors (1994), based on the novel by Alan Duff.
Article key phrases: