Theatre research interests

Browse the research interests of staff in the Theatre programme.

For detailed research interests and lists of publications, click on the staff name which will direct you to their respective staff page.


The Theatre Programme at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington has a broad range and depth of research skills that combine theory with practice. Our research interests span the ages from Whare Tapere and Early Modern and Restoration drama to contemporary performance practices. We have a particular strength in Theatre and Performance in Aotearoa New Zealand and Māori and Pasifika Theatre and Performance. We also have specialists in global perspectives from traditional and contemporary Chinese and Japanese theatre, Shakespeare, as well as theatre from the US, UK, and Australia. Our research further traverses broad methodologies that include practice-based research, interculturalism, performance studies, critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, and digital humanities. Creative practice is also an important part of our research, with academic staff working locally and internationally in scenography, playwriting, dramaturgy, directing, and intimacy direction. Academic staff are actively involved in the following research areas:

Arts Research and Performance Studies

Staff in the Theatre Programme are actively engaged in contemporary performance practices from a broad range of expertise – acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, writing, and management – and this is complemented by practice-based and practice as research methodologies through which research questions are explored and answered through the making of performance and interdisciplinary art practices.

Asian and Intercultural Performance

Staff members specialise in traditional and contemporary Chinese and Japanese theatre practices. Current work focuses on how the aesthetic and economic viability of xiqu (Chinese opera) is maintained in China today. This is contrasted with embodied research into the slow performance style of contemporary Japanese artist Ōta Shōgo. This research interest also incorporates intercultural theatre, or the meeting of cultures in and through performance. Recent productions include Te Puna Hipi – Spanish Golden Age meets spaghetti Western – and a Pasifika Hip Hop adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.

Devising and Writing for Live Performance

Staff in the Theatre Programme are both experienced and award-winning in the various aspects of writing for live performance including playwriting, dramaturgy, devising, and composition. Devised performance is also a key strength of the Programme, with many of our graduates going on to form their own theatre collectives. This research interest also encompasses the important area of theatre criticism with staff members serving as editors for Theatre Times and Theatre Scenes.

Directing and Performance Training and Practice

This research interest encompasses explorations into directors, directing, actors, and acting in both their training and in their practice. From Stanislavsky to Ōta Shōgo, from Dame Kate Harcourt to Nathaniel Lees, staff have interviewed and studied the careers and approaches of artists from diverse cultures and across a broad period of history.

Gender and Sexuality in Performance

Gender and sexuality in performance are key research concerns for the Theatre Programme. Recent publications explore the Māori feminist discourse of Mana Wāhine to advocate for the ‘recognition of agency, knowledge and mana’ of Māori women (Hyland 207), representations of queenship in Shakespeare’s plays, responses to institutional sexism in light of #MeToo within contemporary Australian performance, and innovation in the portrayal of female Jingju roles. Here a feminist lens is used to analyse readings of performances as diverse as early modern drama, Beijing/Peking Opera, the plays of Caryl Churchill, Beyoncé, and Moana. Staff members also specialise in queer theory and pedagogy, which is brought to bear on practice-based research and creative practice.

Global Theatre Markets, Festivals, and Touring

The cultural transmission and flow of productions into, out of, and between countries provides insight into how theatrical performance operates as sites of national and intercultural negotiation, understanding, and debate. This research interest studies the methods through which theatre travels – touring and festivals – to investigate the nature and impact of the global performing arts market.

Māori and Pasifika Theatre and Performance

The Theatre Programme is committed to Mātauranga Māori and has a longstanding relationship with Māori theatre-makers and theatre companies as research collaborators and consultants. Such collaborations include staff members being commissioned to write the history of Taki Rua Theatre. Other publications focus on representations of Indigeneity in contemporary performance and the politics of Haka in performance. Staff are also specialists in Pasifika Theatre, ‘defined here as live performance work created in Aotearoa/New Zealand by artists of Pacific Island ancestry’ (Warrington and O’Donnell 9), publishing award winning studies in the field.

Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama

Staff in the theatre programme specialise in examining the performance history of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. For example, a key publication explores what the Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays can reveal of how his female characters were performatively embodied in earlier periods.

Theatre and Performance in Aotearoa New Zealand

The Theatre Programme specialises in all aspects of theatre and performance in Aotearoa New Zealand: from the study of playwrights, actors, directors, and designers to documenting and archiving information on key productions and theatre companies.