Eureka! A new idea for a play

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

The bath­tub is where bud­ding play­wright Cather­ine Smith comes up with some of her best ideas.

Ms Smith is about to grad­u­ate from the Unitec bach­e­lor of per­form­ing and Screen arts, ma­jor­ing in writ­ing for the­atre and screen.

Her grad­u­a­tion play Burnt Pears, which she has been work­ing on since the start of the year, opens tonight.

It’s the un­usual story of an old man liv­ing in a burnt pear or­chard who catches a lit­tle blind girl in his fish­ing net while fish­ing in the or­chard’s river.

“He con­vinces her she’s died and gone to heaven so she won’t leave and he has to find a way to bring her sight back.”

The 21-year-old Mt Al­bert stu­dent is also co-di­rect­ing the pro­duc­tion and says her ideas just pop into her head in the tub, or while walk­ing to school.

Her pas­sion for writ- ing goes back to her child­hood in Ti­maru, when she wrote to Dis­ney Stu­dios propos­ing they make a film of the Roald Dahl book Matilda, with her­self play­ing the lead role.

She got a let­ter back ex­plain­ing the le­gal­i­ties of us­ing other peo­ple’s ideas as films but she wasn’t de­terred by the set­back and kept writ­ing.

“I wrote my first play quite young.

“I found it was a much quicker way to write sto­ries.”

She also started di­rect­ing shows while at high school and per­formed a self-de­vised mono­logue at var­i­ous South Is­land fes­ti­vals.

The­atre writ­ing tu­tor Gary Hen­der­son says it’s un­usual for a stu­dent play­wright to di­rect their own work for the Unitec de­gree.

“It’s just the tra­di­tion that writ­ers write and direc­tors di­rect. Cather­ine has cho­sen an­other model, work­ing with two di­rect­ing stu­dents and the three of them stag­ing the play.”

He is so im­pressed with the way it’s work­ing that he is looking at us­ing it as a model for next year’s stu­dents and has en­joyed watch­ing Ms Smith’s progress.

“It’s been re­ally in­ter­est­ing to watch her work and de­velop over the three years.

“She has a style about what she does that is hard to de­fine.

“There’s al­ways quite a po­etic na­ture to what she’s writ­ten.”

Next year Ms Smith plans to at­tend teach­ers’ train­ing col­lege so she can sup­port her­self as a pri­mary school teacher while work­ing on the­atre projects in her spare time.

Burnt Pears will be on at Unitec’s Dance Stu­dio 2, Gate 1, Car­ring­ton Rd at 7pm tonight and Fri­day night and 4pm on Sun­day.

The Unitec School of Per­form­ing and Screen Art’s grad­u­a­tion sea­sons runs un­til Novem­ber 29.

Tick­ets are avail­able at


Bud­ding play­wright: Cather­ine Smith’s play Burnt Pears is set in a burned out pear or­chard.

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