Fostering New Theatrical Talent at the Fortune

The creative team involved in Fortune Theatre’s upcoming kids’ show What You Will exemplify the theatre’s commitment to fostering new theatrical talent. The writer, actors, director and operator have all attended the University of Otago and the show itself is based on characters from the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night, which will run at the same time as part of the main season and is the result of a collaboration between the theatre and the University.

The genius behind What You Will (besides Shakespeare of course) is local writer, actor and musician Zac Nicholls. Though he has worked for the theatre before as a musician, in kids’ shows The Emperor’s New Clothes and Little Red Riding Hood, this will be the first time his own work is performed at the Fortune. It was through university, and his previous work at the Fortune, that he came to be involved in What You Will. He notes that “the fortune is always keen to help young theatre people in Dunedin thrive”, with initiatives like the 4X4 Emerging Playwrights’ programme, as well as giving artists like himself opportunities to undertake projects. As part of their support for this new work, the theatre has placed Nicholls in contact with script advisor Emily Duncan, who has provided feedback through out the writing process. “She is a genius,” Nicholls says, helping him to think of the story in a narrative sense, getting the world and characters of the play not only funny and engaging but cohesive and well rounded.

Taking the directing helm is Jordan Dickson, who started his professional career directing kids shows for the Fortune whilst he was still at University. His favourite part of directing kids’ shows is the audience, saying “kids come to the theatre ready to have a great time, no questions asked.” What You Will has been a particularly unique experience because of the playwright’s involvement in not only the writing of the play but also the rehearsals and staging. Dickson says, “it’s so fantastic working with a playwright in the room. We’ve been able to develop the script even further working alongside Zac; the show just gets better each and every day!”

Joining Nicholls and Dickson are actors Nick Tipa as Feste, Sam Shannon as Maria and Shaun Swain as Malvolio. Completing the team is Anna Vandenbosch as the stage manager and the light operator. All four have passed through the University of Otago at some point and this shared background makes for a close knit team. Dickson says that the group has a “great working vocabulary” that springs from their shared experiences at Otago.

“Relaxing the Rules” in the School Holidays at The Fortune Theatre

The one week season of What You Will, running from the 15th to the 22nd of July, will include a relaxed performance on the 17th. An initiative launched earlier in 2017, the relaxed performance opens up the theatre to children and their families who might find it difficult to attend regular shows. A number of steps are taken to make the theatre environment more hospitable for people on the autism spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, or other sensitivity issues. The theatre’s education department also put together a Social Script that outlines the process of going to the theatre, letting people know what to expect, as well as introducing the actors and their characters, and answering common questions. “We thoroughly enjoyed our relaxed performance of Little Red Riding Hood last school holidays and we’re looking forward to another fun and welcoming show this time around,” Fortune Education Liaison Shannon Colbert says, and mentions that anyone wishing for a copy can email her or come to the theatre and pick one up.

Whether it is those creating the performance, or being welcomed in to experience the performance, all aspects of What You Will highlight the Fortune Theatre’s work in bringing new voices and viewpoints into the theatre space. Filled with music, mischief and massive amounts of chocolate – thanks to Cadbury and their Chocolate Carnival – this show is going to be a school holiday highlight for their entire family!