David O'Donnell

David O'Donnell profile picture

Professor in Theatre School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies, and Art History


Teaching in 2020

  • THEA 301 Company
    as Course Coordinator and Lecturer
  • THEA 304 Directing
    as Course Coordinator and Lecturer

Research interests

Theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific, postcolonial theatre, theatre directing, community theatre, acting theory


Graduate New Zealand Drama School
BA Victoria University of Wellington
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Otago
MA Otago

Current research projects

I am a graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago. I have worked in New Zealand theatre as a director, actor and dramaturg for 40 years. I have directed many New Zealand and overseas plays and my productions have been staged at the NZ International Festival of the Arts; Auckland, Nelson and Otago Arts Festivals; Dreaming Festival (Australia); Kumu Kahua Theatre (Hawai’i); Downstage, BATS, Fortune and Circa Theatres. All of my productions have a research focus. My most recent production was the Wellington Summer Shakespeare Hamlet (2019) which featured a female Hamlet and explored gender and power relationships in the play.

I have published widely on New Zealand and Pacific theatre. With Marc Maufort, I co-edited the book Performing Aotearoa (2007), the first book of scholarly essays about New Zealand theatre. With Lisa Warrington I wrote Floating Islanders: Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa (2017), the first book-length study of the history of Pasifika theatre. This was awarded the 2018 Rob Jordan Book Prize by the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies.

I have been editor of the Playmarket New Zealand Play Series since 2010, editing 17 play collections and theatre books to date. I am on editorial boards for peer reviewed journals Australian Drama Studies and Performance, Religion, and Spirituality and for the

Dramaturgies (Texts, Cultures and Performances) Series, P.I.E. Peter Lang, Brussels. I am a regional managing editor for The Theatre Times website. https://thetheatretimes.com/author/d-odonnell/

I have been a member of the Summer Shakespeare Trust Board since 1999.

My current research projects include articles and book chapters on New Zealand and Pacific theatre, and developing collaborative theatre projects with science-based themes.

Areas of supervision

I have supervised PhD and MA projects on the following topics:

  • Theatre directing
  • Scriptwriting
  • Pasifika theatre/performance
  • Pasifika poetry
  • Māori theatre
  • Devised intercultural theatre
  • Māori and Pacific Shakespeare
  • Liveness in performance
  • Directing solo performance
  • Ritual in Pacific theatre
  • Science communication through live theatre
  • New Zealand theatre history
  • Community theatre
  • Women’s devised theatre in New Zealand
  • Fijian theatre
  • Actor training in New Zealand

Selection of publications


Warrington, Lisa and O’Donnell, David. Floating Islanders: Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2017.

Book chapters

O’Donnell, David. “Afterword.” Before the Birds and The River: Two Plays for Community Theatre by Angie Farrow. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2017, 173-185.

O’Donnell, David. “Foreword.” Dawn Raids by Oscar Kightley. Wellington: Playmarket, 2017, 9-14.

O’Donnell, David. “’DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’: Drama Defining the Nation, 1972-1990.” A History of New Zealand Literature edited by Mark Williams. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016, 262-276.

O’Donnell, David. “Staging Modernity in the ‘New Oceania’: Modernism in Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Theatre.” The Modernist World edited by Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren. London/New York: Routledge, 2015, 282-90.

Warrington, Lisa and O’Donnell, David. "Unfolding the Cloth: Patterns of Landscape and Identity in The Conch’s Masi.Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance edited by Birgit Däwes and Marc Maufort Brussels : Peter Lang, 2014, 199-218.

O’Donnell, David. “Foreword” and “Introduction.” Two Verbatim Plays: Verbatim, Portraits by William Brandt, Miranda Harcourt, Stuart McKenzie. Wellington: Playmarket, 2014, 7-38.

O’Donnell, David. “Shaping the Future: Pacific Playwrights in New Zealand”. Atkinson, Laurie with David O’Donnell (eds.) Playmarket 40: 40 Years of Playwriting in New Zealand. Wellington: Playmarket, 2013, 92-97.

Journal articles

O’Donnell, David. “Finding a Sense of Place in the Pacific Diaspora: Pasifika Performance in Aotearoa,” Australasian Drama Studies 73 (October 2018): 276- 305.

O’Donnell, David. “Where Will This River Flow?: Modernity, Indigeneity and Eco-crisis in the Theatre of Miria George,” symplokē 26 (1-2) (2018): 71-91.

O’Donnell, David. “’Spiritual Play’: Ritual Performance and Spirituality in Samoan Theatre.” Performance of the Real E-journal (2017) http://www.otago.ac.nz/performance-of-the-real/otago666945.pdf

View all Publications by David O'Donnell

Recent creative work

Halba, Hilary and O’Donnell, David (Co-directors), Fission (devised physical theatre work)   Allen Hall Theatre, Dunedin Fringe Festival, 26-31 March 2019.

O’Donnell, David (Director), Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Wellington Summer Shakespeare, Botanical Gardens, Wellington, 15 Feb – 2 March 2019.

O’Donnell, David (Director), My Name is Gary Cooper by Victor Rodger. Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA 22 Jan – 22 Feb 2015.

O’Donnell, David (Director), West End Girls by Ken Duncum adapted from the book by Barbara Tate. Circa Theatre, Wellington 4 Aug – 1 Sept 2012.

O’Donnell, David (Director), Heat by Lynda Chanwai-Earle, National tour: Fuel Festival, Hamilton 1-3 July 2010; Herald Theatre, Auckland 12-17 July 2010; Otago Arts Festival 13-16 October; Nelson Arts Festival 20-21 October; Circa Theatre, Wellington 25 Jan – 19 Feb 2010.

O’Donnell, David (Director), The Great Gatsby adapted by Ken Duncum from the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Circa Theatre, Wellington 31 July-28 August 2010.

Major achievements

  • Awarded Rob Jordan Prize (jointly with Lisa Warrington)forsignificant contribution to the study of theatre, drama or performance studies for the book Floating Islanders: Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, 2018.
  • Created Life Member of the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, 2016.
  • Hawai’i State Theatre Council Po’okela Award 2015: Non-resident Guest Artist Award for directing My Name is Gary Cooper at Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu
  • Nominated for Director of the Year for West End Girls, Chapman Tripp Awards, 2012.
  • Winner of Victoria Teaching Excellence Award 2011
  • Awarded Production of the Year, nominated for Director of the Year for Collapsing Creation, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2009.
  • Co-editor (with Marc Maufort) of Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2007)
  • Awarded Production of the Year, nominated for Director of the Year for Yours Truly, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2006.
  • Awarded Director of the Year, Production of the Year for Albert Speer, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2004.

Professional Links and Responsibilities

  • Regional Managing Editor (New Zealand) The Theatre Times website https://thetheatretimes.com/
  • Editorial Board Member, Performance, Religion, and Spirituality journal.
  • Editorial Advisory Board member, Australasian Drama Studies journal
  • Series editor, Playmarket Play Series (since 2010)
  • Member of Editorial Board, ‘Dramaturgies’ (Texts, Cultures and Performance) series, Peter Lang, Brussels
  • Board member, Wellington Summer Shakespeare Trust Board
  • Board member, Academic Board, Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School


Teaching in 2020

  • THEA 301 Company
    as Course Coordinator and Lecturer
  • THEA 304 Directing
    as Course Coordinator and Lecturer