February 13, 2008


You may be aware that Downstage is currently exploring the desirability and feasibility of re-focusing its activity towards the development, production and presentation of new New Zealand work. Downstage has outlined its possible direction as:

  • Presentation of new and emerging New Zealand work to New Zealand audiences including encouragement, co-operation in development and, where necessary, collaboration in presentation.
  • Reestablishment of Downstage with a reputation for a distinctive and cutting edge aesthetic.
  • Presentation of non-NZ works, particularly in a NZ context or where that aligns with other objectives.
  • Encouragement of new New Zealand work to tour to other centres by facilitation and, where costs can be covered, by promoting the tours of suitable shows.
  • Making Downstage facilities and capability available to local organisations for show production, with particular emphasis on NZ works.
  • Fostering the interest of school-age and young audiences through collaboration with educational institutions. 

Part of this process involves consultation with the industry with the purpose of building towards a refinement of this vision and clarifying an appropriate role for Downstage within the Wellington theatre sector. Downstage have asked me to conduct this consultation. Responses to date have been varied, passionate and rigorous. They have also included models which range from Downstage as purely a presenting venue of a wide range of local and national performing arts to Downstage as a curated hub for the development and production of distinctive and quality NZ theatre.

The timeline for this consultation is very tight, with a report articulating the sector response, a possible shared vision and the planning needed to translate that vision into a workable model due to be submitted to the Downstage Board by the end of February. So I would like to invite you to contribute your thoughts on Downstage’s proposed direction in either of the following ways.

1.       Open Space

On Saturday the 23rd of February I will be facilitating an Open Space discussion at Drama 1, Te Whaea, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown from 11am to 3pm. Open Space is the format used at the recent BSide Forum and is a useful tool for ensuring that what people in the room want to discuss is exactly what gets discussed. If you would like to attend please RSVP to briarmonro@clear.net.nz. I’d suggest bringing a sandwich as I’m not sure the café will be open.

2.       Written submissions

If you are unable to attend the Open Space please send me any thoughts you have by Sunday 24th Feb. I would be particularly interested in:

  •  Your response to this new direction for Downstage
  • What you believe Downstage’s role should be
  • What you believe Downstage might look like? It’s programme/activity/structure
  • What alternatives/potential/possibility/opportunities you feel might exist
  • How might these be developed/maintained
  • How you believe audiences will engage with a new Downstage and who these audiences might be
  • Who carries the risk
  • Where you see your [your organisation’s] involvement in building the new Downstage [how might you engage?]
  • What you feel are the important steps to be taken
  • Your key concerns and how these may be attended to
  • Any other responses and key issues relating to Downstages proposed direction.

I would appreciate you limiting your response to no more than two pages. Please email your response to briarmonro@clear.net.nz with Downstage Industry Consultation Response in the subject. Please include your name and what your role is.

Can you please forward this email to anyone you think may be interested.

With regards,

Briar Monro

[You may also contribute via the Downstage Debate forum.]

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