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New Artistic Director for the Newmarket Stage Company

New Artistic Director for the Newmarket Stage Company

Tues 30 September 2014

The team involved with Newmarket Stage Company’s upcoming production of Shirley Valentine, have mixed emotions going into the final weeks of rehearsals as it means they will also be saying farewell to the Company’s Founder and Artistic Director Adey Ramsel.

Ramsel is heading to the UK where his wife Lisa has landed a prime role as Head of Corporate Development with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). He says: “I am so proud of my wife. She’s a very hard worker and to be offered this great role at the RSC – not bad for a kiwi girl!”

After nearly five years of working on the set up of the Newmarket Stage Company (NSC), and establishing a niche within the Auckland theatre scene, Ramsel will be sad to leave it behind.

“It’s my baby; there was no history of professional theatre in the Newmarket area before we came along. It took a lot of time, effort, more voluntary hours than I dare to admit but here we are and I’m proud of our success.”

“The idea was in my head for a while. I had a clear vision of the structure of the Company, and how it would operate, taking a back-to-basics approach. I trained in the old rep’ system where people mucked in and it was joint effort, a real team production and I think we’ve achieved that.”

In its short life the Company has attracted a wide audience, funding and sponsorship, but its biggest coup was iconic kiwi actor George Henare agreeing to be Patron. “That was a nice seal of approval,” Ramsel adds.

However, in true theatrical style, the show will go on. Ramsel admits it was hard looking for a replacement, as it would be admitting that he was going. “It really is like handing over one of my most precious creations. To complement George I wanted someone to take over who would be as hard-working with a mixed theatrical background.”

It didn’t take long for Ramsel to realise his replacement was standing next to him, in the shape of John Callen, director of their next production Shirley Valentine . “After two chats with John I knew he was the right person for the job. He is so respected in the industry and knows the business. We are certainly on the same wavelength. He is very theatrical but also understands the importance of the break-even – a point I am fanatical about when it comes to budgets.

Callen admits it is a great opportunity to take over as the Company’s new Artistic Director although he’s sure the role won’t be without its challenges. “Every theatrical endeavour has its challenges,” says Callen. “That’s what makes this extraordinary business so exciting.” He says it’s clear Ramsel has done his homework. “Looking at the organisation Adey has put in place I’m impressed by his attention to detail and his vision for future. Now I get the chance to continue the good work, take up the reins and move forward positively.”

Callen has known and worked with Henare too, having been a member of the acting company at Mercury Theatre for several years where, coincidentally, he first met Nancy Schroder, star of Shirley Valentine. “And to those who might be thinking ... Another Willy Russell play? Let me say – yes, absolutely. A good writer and a good play stand the test of time ... and Shirley Valentine is so well-loved we couldn’t ignore the up swell of demand for a new production of an old favourite.” Callen believes that the messages of the play apply as much today as they did when it was written - amazingly similar to Shakespeare’s work in that respect, he says.

The award-winning comedy Shirley Valentine, starring Auckland actress Nancy Schroder, opens on 9th October. This is a joint production between Newmarket Stage Company and Schroder’s The Stage Company. Schroder has been touring the play around New Zealand, with rave reviews and is thrilled to be able to bring Shirley to Auckland with Callen on board as Director.

Callen says: “Adey has formed a core group of people who have worked previously with the Company for the Auckland season of Shirley Valentine. The production will be a hand over – Adey will be easing out, I’ll be easing in, so a joint production is ideal, it takes some of the pressure off.”


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