New Zealand playwrights are a funny old bunch. There are too few of us, and we are too individualistic to achieve much in the way of professional solidarity. Playwright’s conference used to take place every two years in New Zealand – I attended two and had a play workshopped in one – but they seem to have gone by the by. They’re expensive and labour intensive, and I suspect Playmarket, the agent for playwrights in New Zealand, decided in the end their energies and resources were better deployed on other strategies. They still organise workshops though, and have financed several of mine over the years – thanks Playmarket!
There’s a long-standing perception that writers, are stuffy and socially inept. When it comes to playwrights there is a degree of truth in this. As a breed New Zealand playwrights tend to be introverted and socially insecure – and more comfortable being witty and charming on the page than at a dinner party. Moreover it takes a certain type of personality to be a playwright – one that will persevere through the long hours of lonely travail at the computer required to bring a play to the stage. Why would a social butterfly, who can derive immediate gratification from their linguistic inventiveness, bother with all that? Unless your name happens to be Oscar Wilde? – but Oscar Wildes aren’t exactly thick on the ground in New Zealand!
So, as a rule New Zealand playwrights can seem a bit dull and withdrawn – especially when in the company of actors and directors. But if what’s up on stage is pleasing to the ear, then all is forgiven!