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Graduates return to celebrate 20 years of NASDA

Graduates return to celebrate 20 years of NASDA

Erin Simpson, host of the Erin Simpson show, joins graduates to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of New Zealand’s most prestigious dramatic arts schools - CPIT’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA). The two-day event, for current students, graduates and industry partners will be held during Queen’s Birthday Weekend from May 31st to June 2nd.

John Bucchino, award-winning American composer, lyricist, pianist and teacher based in New York City, will give a guest performance as part of the celebration on Sunday night.

NASDA’s evolution:

Head of NASDA Richard Marrett says the academy was founded as a private training establishment, in 1994.

“It was called ASDA- the Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art. It was founded to train students in singing, acting and dance for careers in theatre, specifically opera and other forms of music theatre,” he says.

“It was later renamed as NASDA, and began offering a degree qualification.”

NASDA offers a Bachelor of Performing Arts degree which combines singing, acting and dancing in a music theatre specialisation and produces performers capable of working throughout the performing arts industry.

Over the years, NASDA has evolved to reflect the changing nature of the musical theatre arts industry. Marrett says to be successful in the industry today performers need to be “versatile and dynamic”.

“The ultimate goal is to produce the elusive ‘triple threat’ performer, but anyone considering a theatrical career in the New Zealand or Australian scene needs to be as versatile as possible with skills in acting, singing and dance.”

Graduates take to stage and screen:

The last 20 years have seen some prestigious performers pass through NASDA’s doors, with many graduates now working in arts and theatre all over the world. Among the most successful graduates are Erin Simpson, Kristian Lavercome, who is well known as an actor and is currently playing Riff Raff in the Australian production of Rocky Horror, songstress Kaylee Bell, who has graced stages around New Zealand, Australia and the USA, and Zachary Parore who has worked as a stunt performer and character actor for Universal Studios Singapore.

“Several alumni have ended up in Australia performing in shows. Akina Edmonds has been performing in ‘The Lion King’ while Laura Bunting has been performing in the Australian ‘Wicked’ musical,” Marrett says.

“Others, such as Charlie Panapa and Erin Simpson are well-known to New Zealand audiences as television presenters.”

He believes NASDA continues to be so successful because of the way the academy integrates the development of skills and theoretical knowledge with real world performance experience in its programmes.

“The intensive, practical nature of the programme is a strength, as is the contribution and pastoral care of a team of multi-talented, experienced staff members.”

Marrett was also looking forward to the celebration and hosting New York music theatre icon, John Bucchino who will perform on the Sunday evening.

“It will be a wonderful time, where we see people come together who studied so closely with one another during their times at NASDA, as well as a time to pay tribute to some of those instrumental in the course’s beginnings.”

The next 20 years:

The 20th year will be a busy one for NASDA, which began with their first production of the year, Pippin in April.

NASDA students will also be performing various other theatre ensembles throughout the year, including The Comedy of Errors, Dogg’s Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“We routinely produce about eight show seasons in any one year and this year is no different,” Marrett says.

“However, we have the reunion in June and the show ‘Spring Awakening’ at the Court Theatre which are new dimensions for 2014.”

Marrett knows NASDA will continue to be at the forefront of the industry in the next 20 years as an institution.

“The programme always enrols strongly and has gained a reputation for providing high quality training and education for those who choose to study here.”

For more information on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend NASDA celebrations visit


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