Playwright, director and curator Louise Tu'u is the first person from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to be selected for the five-member jury at the prestigious Zurcher Theater Spektakel to be held from August 15 to September 1 in Zurich. The annual international meeting of independent theatre groups was founded in 1980 and ranks among the most important European festivals for the contemporary performing arts. Reporter Jess Lee sat down with the central Auckland artist to find out how she has carved a name for herself both at home and abroad and why her parents are still waiting for her to get a proper job.
1. How does it feel to be a part of such a prestigious jury?
When I was invited by the artistic director, Sandro Lunin, it was a surreal moment. I feel honoured and responsible to do my research and read up on the shows beforehand. Having said that, I'm also open to what happens in performances. That's what makes live performance so vital - it's immediacy. You simply have to be there.
2. What are you hoping to gain from the experience?
From my experiences of travelling for work for eight years, I've learnt it's important that you want to make and leave a good impression about who you are and where you come from.
I'm hoping to see as many acts as possible, talk to performers and producers of the shows and work on my tan. Here I've been getting whiter and whiter each day.
3. How important is it to represent New Zealand and the Pacific Islands on the world stage?
The responsibility is always there when you make work so this is an extension of my practice. I am intuitive as well as intellectual so it's important to be aware of what's happening at the time. Easy to say, hard to practise.
I am the first to represent not only New Zealand and the Islands in this context but also my family. So hey, no pressure.
4. How do you feel about your reputation as a "pioneer of the arts"?
I feel free in that I make opportunities happen and find out for myself what works and what doesn't. As I've gotten older and travelled to different festivals and events, I aim to be bold and back that up with research, experience and humour. You already are when you're the first one to do anything anyway. On another level, I feel I'm making up lost ground for being the youngest of four.
5. Has your career shaped who you are or has who you are shaped your career in any way?
Having been lucky to travel from such a young age with aiga (family), the ability to adapt in a new environment has proven extremely useful. That's definitely influenced my love of travelling, especially for work. The versatility of creating and directing characters and narrative onstage and off it has also helped me become more agile in how I react to situations.
6. Tell us something most people wouldn't know about you.
I used to play flugelhorn in the Salvation Army for seven years. A flugel is like a cross between a cornet and a trumpet. If you're still stuck use the internet, my friend.
7. Where will we see you in 10 years time?
Call me superstitious but I'd rather achieve it than jinx it by stating it here. In any case if I'm still in live performance, then I truly am blessed.
8. What are the best and worst things about working in the industry?
I know Maori Language Week passed but this should answer your question: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (The people, the people, the people).
9. What does your family think of your choice of career?
After 12 years doing this professionally, my mum still insists I get a fulltime job. Dad is quietly proud in that Samoan way of criticising you to your face then showing me off to my cousins that I'm a lawyer. At least, I know where the storytelling comes from.
10. If you weren't a playwright, director, actor and curator what would you be?
A plumber. They have a better hourly rate and the stories they could tell about kitchen sink drama would blow me out of the water any day.
Louise Tu'u is performing in Belief at the Old Folks Association Hall, 8 Gundry St, Newton on August 3 at 7pm. Entry is free. Go to weshouldpractice.com for more information. For more information about the Zurcher Theater Spektakel go to theaterspektakel.ch/en/
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