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Drama School Students Go Worldwide

Drama School Students Go Worldwide

Four third year acting students from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School are scattering to the winds in the next few weeks. With the help of the Performing Arts Foundation of New Zealand all are off overseas on month-long secondments to theatre companies - one to Chile, two to London and the fourth to New York.

James Ashcroft is the first New Zealander to spend time as an intern with the famous Wooster Group, which has produced luminaries such as Oscar winner Frances McDormand, Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, and Steve Buscemi. James' passion for the New York based group's work saw him through the application process ahead of many other applicants.

"I want to take the international perspective I gain from working with the Wooster Group and use it to convey stories about New Zealand," said James. "I'll also get to take myself seriously in a professional company of that weight and recognition, which is invaluable experience."

Rina Patel and Rashmi Pilapitiya are heading to London after Easter to be part of South Asian Theatre Company, Tara Arts, for five weeks.

Tara Arts was the first ever South Asian (Indian) theatre company set up outside India and has been incredibly successful, touring the UK and international festivals from its London base. Rashmi and Rina will observe rehearsals and hope to take part in the devising process for the company's next play, which will examine British colonial India and imperialism.

Rashmi is Sri Lankan and moved to New Zealand fifteen years ago. She is the first Sri Lankan to attend Toi Whakaari. Rina, a second generation Kiwi, is the first woman of Indian (Gujarati) descent at Toi Whakaari. Both women are excited about spending time with other theatre practitioners of South Asian descent, a rarity in this country.

"I want to be amongst other South Asians living in the West who have dual identities, to find like-mindedness and some more role models," said Rashmi. "There's a unique narrative perspective there that will help me tell the stories I want to get across."

"I want to see how an Indian theatre company deals with political issues while being so successful and well established," said Rina.

Jodie Hyland is leaving for Santiago, Chile on Sunday to study at the La Mancha International School of Image and Gesture. While there she will spend four weeks learning movement based physical theatre, incorporating mask, mime, pantomime, Greek chorus work, improvisation and even karate.

"The work I'll be doing is in a direction I really want to take," said Jodie. "My time at La Mancha will feed into all the rest of my time at Toi Whakaari and definitely into my future career. What I'll learn will help me develop theatre in New Zealand so we can tell our own stories of Aotearoa in new ways."

The secondment to La Mancha was instituted in 2002 by Emma Deakin and was so successful an exchange has resulted. In addition to Jodie's trip, a student from Chile will visit New Zealand later in 2003.

Secondments to professional theatre companies are a mainstay of the third year in the Bachelor of Performing Arts (Acting) at Toi Whakaari. In previous years students have spent time in Denmark (with Eugenio Barbe), Spain (for a Flamenco workshop), Shanghai (a technical exchange), the UK, LA, Canada and Melbourne as part of their third year professional development.

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