Saturday, February 14, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Dianna Fuemana



Welcome back to Umbrella Talk! This week we are talking with another New Zealand playwright, Dianna Fuemana. Dianna tells us which two New Zealand and Australian actor/directors would direct the coolest production of one of her plays; why she's banking on her kids to move out to start writing what she hasn't yet; and being inspired by 3 people and 1 angry one.

A little more on Dianna Fuemana (Niue/ Amerika Samoa)

Dianna Fuemana emerged on the New Zealand theatre scene in 1999 with her one woman show Mapaki. She is credited with being the first New Zealand Pacific playwright to merge the Niue and New Zealand born way of life through professional theatre. In the same year, she was nominated at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for Outstanding New Writer and best up coming actress of the Year. The same year, her acclaimed play Mapaki was performed around New Zealand and then toured internationally across the United States and Athens, Greece. This was followed by her next play a comedy Jingle Bells produced in Auckland, 2001.

Fuemana completed a Master of Creative and Performing Arts with honours in 2005 at the University of Auckland, writing her third play The Packer during her study. The Packer was performed to sold out audiences in New Zealand, Australia as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe. Her fourth play My Mother Dreaming premiered in Auckland in 2005. Her most recent play Falemalama was produced during a residency in 2006 at the Pangea World Theater in Minneapolis, USA.

Born in 1973, Dianna is the youngest and only New Zealand born child from a family of eight. Her brothers and sisters were all born and semi-raised in American Samoa and Niue. Dianna's most recent work Falemalama is semi-biographical and is based on the life of her mother. A highlight of the playwright's career to date was staging Falemalama at the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in Pago Pago 2008. The first time she had been to American Samoa. She has had writer residencies in Niue and with New World Theater in Amherst, USA. She has been a selected guest writer at the Tahiti writers festival 2005 and has sat on the Auckland Readers and Writers festival panels. Her plays Mapaki, The Packer and Falemalama have been published.


As well as writing for theatre, Dianna has been instrumental in building arts partnerships for the benefit of Pacific theatre in her work as an arts adviser for Auckland City Council (2003-2006) and working alongside Playmarket developing and managing a development programme for Pacific playwrights. Her contribution to these fields was recognised recently when she won the Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award at the 2008 Creative New Zealands, Pasifika Arts Award. These achievements have sealed her reputation as a leading light in New Zealand Pacific theatre.


Umbrella Talk with Dianna Fuemana

What do you drink on opening night?

The first bottle is always good Champagne and the rest is up to whose paying.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?

Definitely Hori Ahipene (NZ) and Jeremey Lindsay Taylor (AUS). Both are Actor/Directors that can drill deep into the heart of a matter and can pull it out onto a stage AND both know how to sexy things up when required.

What scares you?

A lot scares me but I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in a higher power and I accept those scary situations/people are there to test and strengthen you for the greater good.

What can't you write about?

Things that are mundane and have no significant meaning in my life.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?

HEAPS and F%# HEAPS of stuff!

I'm banking on the kids moving out soon so I can string all my magical stories together uninterupted by 'teenage' angst. I am practising Godly patience at the moment so not much head space. Not long to go now...

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)

It would FULLY be all genres! I see you've left out porn. In saying that, I'll add, most of everything I've written thus far has a significant piece of my life attached to it.


How do you deal with praise? With criticism?

I take praise with much humility. As a writer I take criticism based on whose giving it. For example, if a theatre reviewer has given me a stink review and that person has been reviewing for less than a few years than I don't give a shit! Same goes for people who don't actually write... like actors, family and friends, you know... love a little, leave a little...

Where would you like your work to be produced?

Where the venue staff are amazing and the bar has great food, cheap drinks, spunky punters and they don't have a problem opening until all the actors are ready to leave, which is usually 6am. Again, this depends on whose paying.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?

I write everywhere I go. In note books and pieces of paper. I do hand writing before finger tapping.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?

What was her state of conciousness when writing these things?

What inspires you?

Living life Fully and Honestly.

Meeting and experiencing people from vast cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Believing in a higher power.

3 beautiful people and 1 angry one.

Thanks again for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. Next week we chat with playwright Rebecca Fisseha. If you are a playwright who has been produced several times in Canada and elsewhere and would also like to talk to us, please send us an e-mail to obu@web.ca.

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