Theatre design training
Formal programmes to train theatre designers did not exist in New Zealand until 2003, when Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: New Zealand Drama School (usually known as Toi Whakaari) and Massey University School of Creative Arts joined forces to deliver a degree in performance design. The qualification was disestablished in 2010 because of concerns over the financial sustainability of the joint programme. In 2013 Toi Whakaari began to offer its own design degree, the Bachelor of Design (Stage and Screen). This qualification encouraged greater participation between directors, designers and other practitioners in the performing arts environment.
Some New Zealand stage designers have become internationally recognised for their work. Dorita Hannah trained as an architect before specialising in design for performance. She was production designer for three bicultural New Zealand plays produced for Taki Rua Theatre’s Te Roopu Whakaari season in Wellington and Auckland in 1994–95. She later worked in Prague, Athens and Perth, as well as at several International Arts Festivals in New Zealand.
In the 21st century it is not unusual to have several designers from separate disciplines assuming leadership roles on a single production. Integrating set, lighting, costume and audiovisual elements allows the design team to play a greater role in the production process. Theatre designers in all fields have become initiators and prime collaborators in the directorial process. This in turn has advanced the visual appeal of theatre in the 21st century, opening up a multitude of sensory possibilities to engage future audiences.