David O'Donnell

David O'Donnell profile picture

Associate Professor in Theatre School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies

Research interests

Theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific; Theatre directing


Graduate New Zealand Drama School
BA Victoria
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Otago
MA Otago

Current research projects

My research focuses on the theatre of Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific region, community theatre and practice-based research as a professional theatre director. Current projects include:

  • Co-author on study of Pasifika theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Co-author on comparative literature study of Oceanic drama.
  • Editing two volumes for Playmarket as editor of the Playmarket Play Series.
  • Co-author on article on production of My Name is Gary Cooper in Hawai’i.

Areas of supervision

I have supervised PhD, MA and MTA projects on the following topics:

  • Theatre directing
  • Scriptwriting
  • Pasifika theatre/performance
  • Pasifika poetry
  • Māori theatre
  • Devised intercultural theatre
  • Māori and Pacific Shakespeare
  • Liveness in performance
  • Directing solo performance
  • Ritual in Pacific theatre
  • Science communication through live theatre
  • New Zealand theatre history
  • Women’s devised theatre in New Zealand
  • Fijian theatre

Major achievements

  • Hawai’i State Theatre Council Po’okela Award 2015: Non-resident Guest Artist Award for directing My Name is Gary Cooper at Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu
  • Nominated for Director of the Year for West End Girls, Chapman Tripp Awards, 2012.
  • As editor of the Playmarket Play Series I have worked on seven volumes of plays published since 2010. These include No. 8 Wire (2011), a substantial anthology containing eight plays, and Urbanesia, an anthology of four Pasifika plays. Several of these plays are of historical significance, and their publication aids further research into New Zealand theatre practice and history.
  • Winner of Victoria Teaching Excellence Award 2011
  • Directed an eco-production of Lynda Chanwai-Earle’s Heat, the first New Zealand play to be powered completely off the national grid. First performed in 2008 and toured nation-wide in 2010.
  • Awarded Production of the Year, nominated for Director of the Year for Collapsing Creation, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2009.
  • Co-editor (with Marc Maufort) of Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2007)
  • Awarded Production of the Year, nominated for Director of the Year for Yours Truly, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2006.
  • Awarded Director of the Year, Production of the Year for Albert Speer, Chapman Tripp Awards, December 2004.

Professional links and responsibilities

  • Member of Editorial Advisory Board, Australasian Drama Studies journal
  • Series editor, Playmarket Play Series (since 2010)
  • Member of Editorial Board, ‘Dramaturgies’ series, Peter Lang, Brussels
  • Member, Wellington Summer Shakespeare Trust Board

Selection of publications

O’Donnell, David. “’DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’: Drama Defining the Nation, 1972-1990.” A History of New Zealand Literature edited by Mark Williams. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016, 262-276.

O’Donnell, David. “Staging Modernity in the ‘New Oceania’: Modernism in Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Theatre.” The Modernist World edited by Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren. London/New York: Routledge, 2015, 282-90.

Warrington, Lisa and O’Donnell, David. "Unfolding the Cloth: Patterns of Landscape and Identity in The Conch’s Masi.Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance edited by Birgit Däwes and Marc Maufort Brussels : Peter Lang, 2014, 199-218.

O’Donnell, David. “Shaping the Future: Pacific Playwrights in New Zealand”. Atkinson, Laurie with David O’Donnell (eds.) Playmarket 40: 40 Years of Playwriting in New Zealand. Wellington: Playmarket, 2013, 92-97.

O’Donnell, David. “Ghosts and Visions: The Community Theatre Practice of Angie Farrow.” Illusions: New Zealand Moving Image and Performing Arts Criticism 43/44 (Spring 2012): 29-34.

O’Donnell, David. “The Politics of Avarice: Re-visiting Roger Hall’s Share Market Comedies.” Double Dialogues 14 (Summer 2011).

O’Donnell, David. “Beyond Post-Colonialism?: Transactions of Power and Marginalisation in Contemporary Australasian Drama.” Maufort, Marc and De Wagter, Caroline (eds.) Old Margins and New Centres: The Legacy of European Literatures in an Age of Globalization. Brussels: PIE Peter Lang, 2011.

O’Donnell, David. “Quoting the ‘Other’: Intertextuality and Indigeneity in Pacific Theatre.” Figueira, Dorothy and Maufort, Marc (eds.) Theatres in the Round: Multi-ethnic, Indigenous, and Intertextual Dialogues in Drama. Brussels: PIE Peter Lang, 2011, 111-134.

O’Donnell, David and Warrington, Lisa. “Teaching the Unteachable: A Dialogue in Director Training.” Australasian Drama Studies 57 (October 2010): 129-147.

O’Donnell, David. “Politics of Place and Extended Family in Taki Rua Productions’ 25th Year: Strange Resting Places and Te Karakia.” Australasian Drama Studies 55 (October 2009): 10-29.

View all Publications by David O'Donnell

Recent creative work

O’Donnell, David (Director), My Name is Gary Cooper by Victor Rodger. Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA 22 Jan – 22 Feb 2015.

O’Donnell, David (Director), West End Girls by Ken Duncum adapted from the book by Barbara Tate. Circa Theatre, Wellington 4 Aug – 1 Sept 2012.

O’Donnell, David (Director), Heat by Lynda Chanwai-Earle, National tour: Fuel Festival, Hamilton 1-3 July 2010; Herald Theatre, Auckland 12-17 July 2010; Otago Arts Festival 13-16 October; Nelson Arts Festival 20-21 October; Circa Theatre, Wellington 25 Jan – 19 Feb 2010.

O’Donnell, David (Director), The Great Gatsby adapted by Ken Duncum from the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Circa Theatre, Wellington 31 July-28 August 2010.

O’Donnell, David (Director), Collapsing Creation by Arthur Meek, Nelson Arts Festival (Suter Theatre), 24-26 October 2009; Downstage Theatre, Wellington 5 – 28 November 2009.

O’Donnell, David (Director), Te Karakia by Albert Belz, Taki Rua Productions: Clarence St Theatre, Hamilton 25-28 Feb 2009; Auckland Arts Festival, (Herald Theatre) 5-8 March 2009; Dreaming Festival, Queensland Australia 6-8 June 2009.