Umbrella Talk with playwright Jean Betts

This week's Umbrella Talk comes all the way from New Zealand and it's really short and sweet:

Umbrella Talk with Jean Betts

What do you drink on opening night?
Anything free.

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

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Nothing scares me and I can write about anything – lack of writing skill is all that stops me and it stops me a lot

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Apathy. Hard to find a compelling storyline.

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

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Extremely badly with both

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Anywhere there is an audience who gets it

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Write anywhere and use both

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I would rather they didn’t

What inspires you?
Courage and good research; George Monbiot in other words

A little more on Jean Betts

Jean Betts is a New Zealand Playwright, actor and director, particularly interested in re-thinking the position of women in the classics, and myth, religion and 'traditional' cultures.
As a child, Jean and her family emigrated from The Old Kent Road in London to Sumner in Christchurch. She obtained a degree at Canterbury University in English and New Zealand & Pacific history and graduated from the New Zealand Drama School in 1970. Jean has had a long association with all Wellington theatres as an actor, director and writer. She was a foundation member of Playmarket (1975), Circa (1976) and Taki Rua/The Depot (1983). In 1979 Jean was a founding member of the expatriate group The Heartache and Sorrow Company which presented work in Amsterdam, Germany, London and at the Edinburgh Festival, and Jean co-wrote and directed many works for them. In 1993 Jean co-founded WOPPA (Women’s Professional Playwrights’ Association). The WOPPA festival, presented in Women’s Suffrage year, premiered her play Ophelia Thinks Harder at Circa Theatre. Subsequent to this the Women’s Play Press was formed to continue to encourage, develop and support the work of women playwrights.

Jean is a founding member of Circa and Taki Rua Theatres, Playmarket, The Play Press ( and the Women’s Play Press.

She has two sons and lives in Wellington.

Thanks again for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. If you are a playwright that has been produced a few times here in Canada or elsewhere and would like to talk to us too, please send us an e-mail to