17 Feb 2011
The Board of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School has appointed Christian Penny as Director of the School to replace Annie Ruth when she steps down from the post in May this year. The Board was unanimous in their selection of Christian to take up the reins from Annie and lead the School in its next phase of development. Christian Penny is currently Head of Directing & Associate Director of Toi Whakaari.
Christian has led the Master of Theatre Arts in Directing programme, which is co-delivered jointly by Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and the Theatre Programme of Victoria University of Wellington since 2002. He has worked in a range of fields developing new New Zealand theatre works ranging from plays, devised works, community theatre projects and most recently Opera. He is the co-founder of the Auckland theatre company Theatre at Large (1990) and the New Zealand Playback Theatre Summer School which he has taught for twelve years. Christian is also a graduate of the 2009 Leadership New Zealand programme.
"Toi Whakaari has a long and proud history and I am honoured to be a part of that. My hope is to keep contributing, along with all the staff here, to building the kura and supporting its graduates and our industry."
The position was advertised both in New Zealand and internationally and received 27 applications from a world-wide pool, with short-listed applicants from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and USA. The Chair of the Board, Richard Moss, said: "Christian impressed us with his vision of collaboration and how from that collaboration a uniquely New Zealand theatre and screen training institution would evolve. We congratulate Christian and wish him well as he picks up the great work undertaken by Annie Ruth and carries it forward."
Annie Ruth, a graduate of Toi Whakaari herself (Diploma in Professional Drama, Acting, 1972), has been involved with the School in a variety of roles throughout the years: as a student for one year, a tutor for three years, Head of the Acting Department for six years and, since 1997, as the Director. Annie has always had a strong vision for Toi Whakaari as the leading dramatic arts training institution in New Zealand and beyond and she has played an active role in the School's productions as director and tutor for the students.
"I am delighted with the appointment of Christian Penny to the role and wish him well as he takes this great School forward into the future. His appointment is a clear endorsement of the direction in which the School is going. It is great that a New Zealander was appointed in such a competitive international market" said Annie Ruth. Annie has been an outstanding Director, instrumental in developing and growing the School's expanding range of qualifications, and she will be greatly missed.