Anton’s Women

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

27/02/2008 - 08/03/2008

Production Details

"The best way to know a man is to watch his women." 

Wellington playwright Donna Banicevich Gera uses theatre to explore a migrant’s universal story of family, displacement, and the importance of culture and belonging.

The play focuses on how 4 women influence Anton, a Dalmatian gum digger, as he strives to become a New Zealander. We step in and out of time as we see Vanya, left behind in Dalmatia, Hewa, the Māori woman he meets on the gum fields, Isobel, the English woman he married, and Danica, brought from the homeland to marry his son, gather on what looks to be Anton’s last day.

Donna Banicevich Gera has a portfolio of work produced for radio, stage, film and print in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. She is currently working on her latest play, and continuing to pursue her areas of interest, researching and recording the stories of immigrant women living in New Zealand. This year Donna will speak about her plays at a ‘New Zealand and the Mediterranean’ conference in Florence, and in September will be taking up a writers residency in Barcelona.

Leading the cast as ‘Anton’ is the exceptionally talented Andrew Laing, well known for his Shortland Street role as Geoff Greenlaw. Andrew is a highly experienced theatre, film, and television actor. Joining Andrew is Ingrid Park as ‘Isobel’, Vicky Yiannoutsos as ‘Vanya’, Noa Campbell as ‘Hewa’ and Liz Tierney as ‘Danica’.

Directing this experienced cast is Judith Stevens-Ly. Judith comes to us from New York with a background in directing and producing in America and Japan. She has directed for the New York Fringe Festival, at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and currently teaches playwriting and directs and produces at the Dept. of Dramatic Writing, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU.

‘Anton’s Women’ is 1 of 3 plays by Donna Banicevich Gera about Dalmatian immigration into New Zealand. Seasons of the 2 plays go into production at the Musgrove Theatre in July 2008 and February 2009.

‘Anton’s Women’ runs from
February 27 – March 8 2008,
Tuesday – Saturday @ 8:00pm and
Sunday’s @ 4:00pm,
at the Maidment Theatre’s Musgrove Studio.
NB: No performance Mondays.

Anton:  Andrew Laing
Isobel:  Ingrid Park
Vanya:  Vicky Yiannoutsos
Hewa:  Noa Campbell
Danica:  Liz Tierney

Producer:  Teresa Sokolich
Director:  Judith Stevens-Ly
Set Design:  Rachael Walker
Lighting Design:  Ken Frost
Publicity:  Julia Russell
Stage Manager:  Alana Tisdall
Sound Compilation: 
Josh Brown
Lighting Operator:  Rhed Clift
Wardrobe:  Donna Banicevich-Gera
Props:  Teresa Sokolich/Rachael Walker

Secrets and memories of Dalmatian migrant’s life

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 06th Mar 2008

Our awareness of the Dalmatian presence in New Zealand often seems to begin and end with the strange-sounding names on the flagons of dodgy red wine that used to flow out of the vineyards of West Auckland.

Donna Banicevich-Gera’s play opens a window on the roots of this community by charting one man’s journey from lonely exile and back-breaking toil in the Northland gumfields to the integration and prosperity of owning a family farm. [More]  


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Big secrets revealed

Review by Jessie Kollen 06th Mar 2008

Anton is waiting to die.   And four women wait for him to die.  His wife, his lover, and his daughter-in-law who has also become his lover, or perhaps I should say business partner …  Waiting with them is his first wife from Croatia, the old country.

Anton, excellently played by Andrew Laing (many would know him from his two year stint on Shortland Street as Geoff Greenlaw) is a Croatian immigrant to New Zealand at the turn of the 20th Century.  Playwright Donna Banicevich-Gera was inspired by the stories her father told about her grandfather, who immigrated to New Zealand in 1903 to dig gum in Northland. 

Anton has worked his way from the kauri swamps to owning his own farm, vineyards and fishing boats.  But Anton’s Women is not really about this rise to material success, Anton’s Women is about just that: Anton’s women.  Although it is probably fair to say that it’s also about Anton’s penis …

This premier production of Anton’s Women (directed by Judith Stevens) is an effective, often humorous play and a satisfying theatre experience.  It reveals the Croatian migrant experience in the early 20th century through the characters of Anton, Vanya and Danica (the young woman brought over from Croatia to marry Anton’s son), as well as the experiences of the two other women, English immigrant and native Māori. 

The play is well acted, although on the night that I attended the ends of the actors’ sentences were occasionally lost.  Their "Dally" (Croatian) accents were good, but Danica’s (Liz Tierney) was a little unsteady at times.  The wonderful character of Vanya, Anton’s first wife, was made so vivid by Vicky Yiannoutsos, Noa Campbell turned Hewa, the Māori woman Anton met on the gum fields, into a completely believable person and I particularly liked Ingrid Park as Isobel, Anton’s waif-ish English wife.

As the single act play moves back and forth between past and present, the characters come into focus, we see how each woman appears in Anton’s life, who she was to him and who she is today; what kind of man Anton really is, and who would these women be without him?  Who indeed! 

Big secrets are revealed as the women exchange their stories. Playwright Donna Banicevich-Gera says: "This is a play for everybody who has felt … a certain twinge of self doubt about their identity and realised how easily, at any moment, one may lose it.  On any given day it seems we can choose to turn right instead of left and change our lives forever."


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