empty chair


an independent review for the Wellington performance industry

Christopher McElroen (USA)
Ryan Hartigan (NZ)
and the Wellington independent performing arts community


With the lack of infrastructure, venue and support for experimental or progressive artists, the formal structures for working and innovating in the performing arts in Wellington are mediocre and in decline. Venues prioritise income over artistry, favoring conventional solutions to new challenges while artists search for alternative spaces and new outlooks on the performing arts.

The displaced, unplaced Wellington independent theatre community finds a home for three days on Wellington Waterfront as they work with guests of The Performance Arcade 2013 to define a clear strategy for the future of their art-form in Wellington. Within this festival of new live art, practitioners from across the performing arts industry will engage in provocative dialogues with acclaimed New York director Christopher McElroen and Browns University PhD candidate Ryan Hartigan.

This characteristically diverse group of independent artists will work together over this time to produce a statement of intent and clear submission on their needs as a community for the betterment of Wellington performing arts and the creative capital as a whole.

Christopher McElroen is visiting The Performance Arcade 2013 courtesy of our International Programme Sponsor, Bolton Hotel.



A TALK WITH CHRISTOPHER MCELROEN, 18:30 – 20:00 (Bolton Hotel)
A presentation by New York-based director and producer Christopher McElroen who will be talking about his work and his practice.

OPENING THE CONVERSATION, 17:00 – 18:30 (Container #8)

A welcome for all involved in this process. The opening of conversations with Christopher and Ryan, discussion of key concerns and aims for the process.

INSTITUTIONS INTERVIEWS, 10:00 – 17:00 (Container #8)
A series of private interviews will be conducted between Christopher McElroen and Ryan Hartigan and Arts Organisations who fund, present and support artists. These will be information-gathering talks in order to gauge these organisations’ understanding of their role in relation to the current and future needs of Wellington performing arts

ARTISTS INTERVIEWS, 10:00 – 18:00 (Container #8)
A series of private interviews between Christopher McElroen, Ryan Hartigan and Wellington performing arts groups in order to understand the key concerns, challenges and needs of the performance community here in Wellington.

ARTIST-INSTITUTION MEETING, 10:30 – 11:30 (Container #8)
A talk between Chris, Ryan and organisations and artists involved in the previous days’ discussions to reflect on what has been discussed and discovered.

PUBLIC FORUM, 12:00 – 14:00  (Stage Space)
The Performance Arcade Public Forum engages artists and public in an open talk about the new art forms and relationships that occur within this annual live art event. Convenor Ryan Hartigan will also angle some questions towards key concerns being addressed in RE-FORM to assess how the public consider the independent performing arts industry in Wellington.

DEVELOPING A STATEMENT, 14:00 – 18:00 (Container #8)
Artists work together to produce clear action plans and a statement of intent, submission, or declaration that can be presented to the institutions in order to clearly outline their needs and alternatives to the “Key Role” that Creative New Zealand is currently investigating.


Co-founded the Classical Theatre of Harlem where from 1999 – 2009 he produced 41 productions yielding 18 AUDELCO Awards, 6 OBIE Awards, 2 Lucille Lortel Awards, a Drama Desk Award and being named “1 of 8 theatres in America to Watch” by the Drama League.

Most recently, Christopher co-produced and directed the world-premiere of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man.  The project opened at the Court Theatre in Chicago, 2012, and was nominated for seven Jeff Awards, Chicago’s highest theatrical honor.  The production opened at The Studio Theatre in Washington DC in 2012 and The Huntington Theatre, Boston in January 2013.

Christopher co-produced and directed Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a community development in the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly communities of post-Katrina New Orleans.  The New York Times listed the project as one of the top ten national art events of 2007.  The archives from the production have been acquired by the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Chris’ works have been recognized with the American Theatre Wing Award (Outstanding Artistic Achievement), Drama Desk Award (Artistic Achievement), Edwin Booth Award (Outstanding Contribution to NYC Theater), Lucille Lortel Award (Outstanding Body of Work), and two Obie Awards (Sustained Achievement and Excellence in Theatre).


Ryan Hartigan is an artist and scholar from Aotearoa-New Zealand, and PhD Candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University; one of the leading programs globally, based in an Ivy League university. His dissertation, titled “Contours of Temporality: Indigenous Performance, the Anxiety of Judges, and the Time of the Law,” examines colonizing power through the Anglo-derived courtroom’s particular organization of time, making an intervention by displaying performance practices as threatening to legality itself. He has won awards from the Theatre and Performance Research Association (UK); the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Performance Studies Focus Group; and the Australasian Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies Association. As well as holding a Summer Institute in Performance Studies Fellowship at Northwestern University and a place in the Global Theater and Performance Workshop at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was one of only three recognized nationally in the USA as a Spotlighted Scholar in Performance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2010.

As a director, Ryan was a Chapman Tripp Award winner in Wellington in 2004, and more recently, named Best Director Rhode Island in 2011. He has amassed a number of Providence Phoenix Best and Editor’s Pick Awards, many with the Contemporary Theater Company RI, with whom he is Artist-in-Residence. He has held a number of artistic residencies and founded multiple performance companies worldwide, with particular preferences for choreographic theatre and improvisation. He has studied with Obie Award winner Lou Bellamy, of nationally renowned company Penumbra Theatre; been commissioned for new theatre works in Minneapolis, Providence and Wakefield RI; and is currently leading a statewide youth-at-risk performance program in Rhode Island. He is also a proud company member of multiple award winning Boston company Whistler in the Dark.  He is one third of famed improv troupe WilburWilburNealbur, one half of avant-garde karaoke duo Walter and Walter, and roughly seven eighths himself. He will be taking up an appointment at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2013.


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