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Acclaimed American Playwright Finally Produced in NZ\

Acclaimed American Playwright Finally Produced in NZ With Star Cast

Annie Baker has won a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Genius Grant and countless Off-Broadway Theatre Awards but her original work has never been staged in New Zealand. That all changes this year with The Aliens, produced by Red Scare Theatre Company.

Director Cassandra Tse has long been a fan of Annie Baker’s work. “Annie Baker is one of the most exciting contemporary playwrights in the world.” Tse, who interned at Off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre where Baker is a resident playwright, knew she had to bring her work over. “Baker’s ability to draw from life in creating complicated, messy, wholly human characters is unparalleled. She sees comedy and pathos in the smallest interactions.” For New Zealand’s first Annie Baker production, Tse selected Baker’s breakout 2010 play, The Aliens.

Jasper (Jonny Potts) and KJ (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt) sit outside the back of a café. They’re musicians, or used to be; misfits, artists, social dropouts - and perhaps geniuses. To 17-year-old Evan (Dryw McArthur) they seem incredible. The two vagrants take him under their wing, introducing him to music, shrooms and Bukowski.

Being friends themselves, Jack Sergent-Shadbolt (The Intricate Art of Actually Caring, Ellen is Leaving) and Jonny Potts (Loose, The Bacchanals) had an immediate connection in the rehearsal room. After touring New Zealand with acclaimed shows (Intricate Art, Once We Built a Tower), lately the two have chosen to work in other forms, film and stand up respectively. But The Aliens was able to draw these two beloved performers back onto the stage.

“It’s a subtle rewarding script,” says Potts who plays the musician turned novelist Jasper, determined on writing the Great American Novel, “there’s aspects of masculinity which we guys sometimes need help seeing”. Sergent-Shadbolt plays KJ, an impulsive singer with a bad back and a predilection for shrooms. “The Aliens is great yarn for those who like their storytelling to be both subtle and confronting…[Baker] has a real gift for creating original characters”. Potts has found that “one real challenge for us may be presenting characters we know too well. Or perhaps, in some ways, still are”.

Rounding out the cast is Dryw McArthur who plays seventeen-year-old Evan. A relative newcomer to Wellington, McArthur is already making a name for himself in the Capital, performing in Next to Normal and King Lear all while completing his degree at Victoria University. McArthur found the script “funny, unexpectedly moving, and an exciting challenge” for his first Red Scare show.

“I’m lucky to be working with the perfect cast and supported by an incredibly talented crew” says director Tse, “New Zealand is going to have an incredible introduction to Annie Baker’s work.”

The Aliens runs from the 4th - 13th July at the Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre - Basement Theatre in Newtown, Wellington. Tickets are $25/$22 and available at Eventfinda. For more marketing inquiries please contact

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