13 December 2011

Meet the Circa Council: Branwen Millar

Circa Theatre is run by the Circa Council, a group of passionate and dedicated artists who work to ensure that Circa continues to be champions of quality playwriting and performance, and home and host to New Zealand’s most influential theatre-makers. Starting this week, drama on the waterfront will introduce you to the Circa Council, featuring a different member in posts throughout the coming months.

Our first featured member is one of the newest additions to the Council, Branwen Millar, who takes time from her busy schedule to tell us about her history with Circa, the highlights of her time at Circa, and her picks for 2012.

DOTW: Tell us a little about yourself.

BM: Proud Wellingtonian, born and raised. With practically equal passions for theatre, travel, social justice and human rights.

DOTW: What is your history with Circa Theatre? How long have you been involved in the theatre and in what capacity?

BM: I started working for Linda Wilson in the Box Office at Circa ten years ago and it was a wonderfully flexible job whilst I was studying (BA in Politics, Theatre and Development Studies, then a MA in Scriptwriting at Victoria University). I got to see all the plays for free and meet lots of wonderful people, both who worked at Circa, and who came to see the shows. Until recently I worked on and off at the box office between traveling, writing plays and other work, and occasionally would fill in for Suzanne Blackburn in Front of House.

My play Armslength premiered in Circa Two in 2008, which was hugely exciting for me as a writer. I had a great time working on it with Stephen Bain who directed, and the lovely cast, crew and design team. But I still remember turning up at the preview performance and there being people there, audience people who had paid to come, people who may not like it, people – or a person? – who laughed at a joke, then definitely people who laughed, smiled (I can see in the dark), yawned (I take the good and the bad), and then clapped at the end (phew). It was exhilarating and felt like I didn’t breath for 80 minutes.

DOTW: How long have you been a member of the Circa Council? How did you come to join the Council?

BM: I was asked to join the Circa Council in 2009. Jane Waddell called me out of the blue to ask if I’d consider it. I thought it an extreme privilege to be asked, I absolutely love Circa, and I’ve seen a number of plays at Circa over the years which have changed my life. I have an immense amount of respect for the passion and hard work that the talented people on the Council have put into Circa over the past 35 years. So I jumped at the chance and it’s been extremely rewarding hard work ever since!

DOTW: What has been a highlight event/production/moment for you in your time at Circa?

BM: There have been many! I will never forget seeing Cherish, or Wolf Lullaby, or Serial Killers, or August: Osage County – all for extremely different reasons. Obviously having Armslength in Circa 2 was a highlight, and I hope my next play will also premiere at Circa. Since joining the Council, helping to develop Circa’s relationship with Tawata Productions has been a definite highlight; Miria George and Hone Kouka are my idea of perfect theatre makers - honest, driven, nurturing, respectful, brave and generous.

DOTW: What are you particularly looking forward to in the 2012 programme?

BM: Oooh, too many goodies to pick! I love Jamie McCaskill’s new play Manawa; I saw a reading of it as part of Tawata’s Matariki Development Festival last year - another great outcome of the Circa/Tawata partnership. Jamie is extraordinarily talented and it was the freshest and funniest and most moving play I’d heard in a long time.

I’m also very much looking forward to Ken Duncum’s new play West End Girls. I am a massive fan of Ken’s work and have recently had the pleasure of working on a script workshop for this incredibly interesting and heart-warming true story to which he has turned his masterful theatrical pen.

As a playwright I’m a fan of the masters (Arthur Miller, Gary Henderson, Roger Hall) but I’m incredibly proud that Circa will be hosting the world premieres for six new New Zealand works in 2012!

DOTW: Finally, do you have anything to say about Circa, with respect to its 35th birthday or looking forward to the next 35 years?

BM: It’ll be a real achievement when we crack 100! It feels like an extremely exciting time for Circa and I consider myself very lucky to have been part of it for the last ten and hopefully the next thirty-five plus. I’ve learnt so much from Ross Jolly, Sue Wilson, Ray Henwood, Carolyn Henwood, Linda Wilson, Neville Carson and Jane Waddell, who have been growing Circa on the same artist-driven ethos for longer than I’ve been alive. It’s an incredible testament to their hard work, and our loyal audiences – without whom, of course, it’d all be for naught.

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