Vanessa Gray Kaihāpai Toi The Court TheatreThe Court Theatre is pleased to announce they have appointed a new Kaihāpai Toi (Māori and Pasifika Producer), Vanessa Gray.

Gray, who has held a range of production roles in the television and film industry, is also the director of a creative agency, Hiwa Media. Her geneological connections are of Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pākehā (English), Ngāti Kōtimana (Scottish) and Ngāti Hūrai (Jewish) ancestry.

The Kaihāpai Toi assists in developing and delivering a Māori and Pasifika plan for The Court Theatre. This plan works to ensure cultural and artistic excellence as well as providing commercial viability and sustainability for Māori and Pasifika productions, practitioners and communities.

For The Court’s Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley, the appointment is an exciting development for the future of The Court Theatre’s Māori and Pasifika work.

“Vanessa Gray’s appointment comes at a time when The Court is expanding its support for Māori and Pasifika practitioners. We are looking for Vanessa to lead The Court into even more work and grow our support for Māori and Pasifika practitioners to allow these artists a voice on Christchurch’s professional stage. We are really excited.”

Celebrating Aotearoa’s diverse voices is a key mission for The Court Theatre. The Court strives to support work by Māori and Pasifika practitioners and feature this work prominently across the organisation. This year a quarter of the work on The Court’s mainstage has been written by Māori playwrights including Jamie McCaskill’s hilarious small-town fishing play, The Biggest  and Albert Belz’s ‘80s family-comedy, Astroman.

Beyond those productions, The Court’s studio theatre, The Forge at The Court, will be staging a series of works in development this year in Ē Toru. Running over three consecutive nights in August, Ē Toru showcases upcoming work from different Māori and Pasifika theatre companies in Christchurch.

Looking ahead, The Court has also comissioned several Māori and Pasifika scripts that are currently in-development. 

Gray, who will be working to support these shows – and future Māori and Pasifika productions at The Court - spent her first week on the job meeting The Court Company, visiting rehearsals for The Biggest and attending a performance of The Court’s bi-lingual schools touring show, He Kura Kōrero.

Passionate about the work she will be doing with The Court, Gray is excited to get started.

“This role allows the advancement and support of cultural identity, dignity and prestige of Māori and Pasifika peoples via the medium of theatre. Māori and Pasifika feature highly in a lot of the negative statistics in this country. Making theatre and arts accessible to Māori and Pasifika people and communities I believe is key to their overall development and sustainability.”

The Court Theatre look forward to the growth and development of their Māori and Pasifika theatre programmes – and New Zealand theatre as a whole – with Gray on board.