Prestigious prize for Pasifika theatre book

Associate Professor in Theatre David O’Donnell and co-author Associate Professor Lisa Warrington from the University of Otago have been awarded the Rob Jordan Prize for the best book on a subject related to drama or theatre studies by the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA).

The prize, awarded every two years to the author(s) of a book that makes a significant contribution to the study of theatre, drama or performance studies, was presented at the ADSA conference in Melbourne last Friday. ”It was a great honour to receive the award, and I hope this will help to further raise the profile of the innovation and uniqueness of Pasifika theatre in New Zealand and internationally,” says David.

The book, Floating Islanders: Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa, tells the story of 30 years of Pasifika theatre in Aotearoa/New Zealand, informed by interviews with over 30 theatre practitioners.

”Lisa and I are indebted to the Pasifika theatre artists who so generously met with us over several years, told us their stories and inspired us with their productions,” says David.

There is a perception that the immigrant experience of living in two worlds is often troubled, he says, but in researching and writing the book he and Lisa have come to see it as a positive thing.

“This ‘in-between-ness’ has been turned to advantage in Pasifika theatre to create a unique and often subversive performance phenomenon. Pasifika theatre in New Zealand also has a powerful sense of community, collaboration and strong family relationships that extend across generations.”

Reviewer Diana Looser of Stanford University in the United States says the book fills an important gap in national and regional theatre history by documenting and describing Pasifika theatre as a coherent genre and movement: “Lucid, accessible and highly informative, Floating Islanders will serve students and scholars as a key sourcebook on Pasifika theatre, as well as providing an exemplary model of collaboration between the academy and the community.”