Peter Zazzali, 2019 Fulbright US Scholar, recently departed New Zealand shores after a five month residency at Toi Whakaari(Toi) the national drama school in Wellington. During the residency he was actively involved in Toi’s learning environment on a daily basis, immersed in the community and engaged in group activities and classes including instructing and directing student actors in a production of Caryl Churchill’s play: ‘Love and Information’. Here, Peter shares more about his experience at Toi Whakaari, and in Aotearoa.
“When I applied to be a Fulbright Scholar at New Zealand’s national drama school, Toi Whakaari, my goals were to develop research in the area of actor training, to explore the school’s indigenous teaching methods, and to enhance my work as a theatre artist. In the spirit of cultural exchange, I also wanted to establish new relationships with colleagues and students that fostered knowledge, expertise, and possibilities for future collaborations. Finally, I wanted to learn more about Aoetearoa and Māori culture.
By all measures, I was able to meet and exceed these goals. My five-month residency spanned two school terms, during which time I partook in Toi’s learning environment on a daily basis. Provided with office space and full access to the school’s resources, I immersed myself in the community and consistently engaged in group activities, observed classes, interviewed staff and students—including alumni, and instructed and directed student actors.
Of the many productive outcomes from my residency, building relationships with colleagues was among the most salient. I greatly valued the chance to share ideas and collaborate with peers from another culture and country. The exchange with my Toi counterparts was strong at the outset and grew throughout the months of my visit. From the quotidian sharing of planned and spontaneous conversations on pedagogy to our time in rehearsals and the classroom, my newfound colleagues and I nurtured a bond that will lead to future collaborations.
Having the opportunity to be a Fulbright scholar has been a transformational experience. My residency contributed to both Toi Whakaari’s pedagogy and my professional development in the context of a rich cultural exchange. Becoming immersed in their learning community facilitated my ethnographic research while reshaping my scholarship and practice. The Acting Program’s use of the Tikanga Māori frameworks was especially impressive and will have a lasting effect on my own teaching.
From the moment I arrived in Wellington to the poroporoaki marking my departure, I was treated with the same rigor and respect as any other member of the whanau. My bond with Toi Whakaari will remain intact as we endeavor to create future exchanges and collaborations. As such, Māori distinguish between the concept of goodbye and bidding someone farewell. Whereas the former is a western conceit suggesting finality, Māori underscore a person’s (or group) visit by acknowledging the host/guest connection as indelible, thereby inferring the parties will meet again.
I am eternally grateful to Fulbright and Toi Whakaari for this life changing opportunity.”
Peter Zazzali – Wellington, July 2019
Dr Peter Zazzali is an Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Kansas. A specialist in actor training, Peter has published numerous articles and chapters on the subject as well as Acting in the Academy: The History of Professional Actor Training in US Higher Education. He holds a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, an M.F.A. from the University of Delaware, and a B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, among other degrees and certificates.
Toi Whakaari’s Acting Program will feature in Peter’s upcoming book, Actor Training in Anglophone Countries, coming soon with Routledge Press.
You can connect with Peter via his website: http://peterzazzalidirector.com/
IMAGES: Philip Merry/Toi Whakaari, used with permisison
Fulbright NZ Scholar Awards are for New Zealand professionals, academics or artists to undertake research and/or lecture at US institutions for three to five months. Applications are open until 1 October each year. Read more here.
Fulbright US Scholar Awards are for Americans to come to New Zealand to undertake research and/or lecture at NZ institutions – find out morehere.