Te Puna Toi - Performance Research Project
Te Puna Toi (est. 2001) is the performance research arm of Free Theatre. Te Puna Toi works between the local and the international and between the avant-garde and the traditional in theatre, performance and film. It is especially interested in hosting events and supporting research and publications which produce ideas about the performance of encounter and identity between cultures – in particular, between European and Māori, but also amongst European, Māori, Pasifika, Asian and other peoples, as New Zealand becomes increasingly multi-cultural in its orientation. This is especially relevant in post-quake Christchurch where the usual ideas around identity have been unsettled and new migrants come to help build a new city - there is an opportunity here to create meetings between cultures that lead to new and surprising ideas about who we are and where we are going.
As the research and events branch of Free Theatre, Te Puna Toi is committed to preserving and promoting the work of New Zealand artists, providing an essential resource for those wishing to study and to make performances and films in Aotearoa/New Zealand as well as to make the work of international artists available locally. We have operated in collaboration with partners, the Centre for Performance Research (Aberystwyth, Wales) and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.
Te Puna Toi was established in 2001 by the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Canterbury and co-founded by Te Rita Papesch, Peter Falkenberg and Sharon Mazer (Falkenberg is current director of the centre) in order to provide a New Zealand-centred platform for performance research and has hosted conferences such as PSi - Performance Studies International (2003) and artists including filmmaker Barry Barclay (2001), performer Cristina Castrillo (2001), Professor Jörg Drews (2004), Atamira Dance Collective (2005), pianist Gao Ping (2007), Professor Manfred Waffender (2008), playwright Werner Fritsch (2008 and 2010), filmmaker Lech Majewski (2009), Professor Richard Gough (2011), director Taiporoutu Huata (2001 and 2015) conductor Hamish McKeich (2019) and Professor Mark Menzies (2019).
Since the disestablishment of the Theatre & Film Studies Programme by the University of Canterbury in 2013, Free Theatre has continued the work of Te Puna Toi.
Free Theatre are currently working on a book on the history of Free Theatre with contributions from past and current members to be published by Performance Research, titled Theatre of Unease: How to Be Free and to Belong at the Same Time.
Free Theatre ensemble member Marian McCurdy published a book Acting and its Refusal in Theatre and Film (2017) with Intellect in which she discusses several Free Theatre productions.