This much I know: CEO of Q Theatre, James Wilson

By Sarah Daniell

James Wilson, Chief Executive of Q Theatre. Photo / Doug Sherring
James Wilson, Chief Executive of Q Theatre. Photo / Doug Sherring

As I child, I remember having terrible stage fright. I was terrified of drama class and anything that required me to speak in front of large groups of people. When I was 12 my parents took me up to London to see my very first West End show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, starring Jason Donovan. The colour, energy and excitement of a night out at the London Palladium had me hooked, and I fell in love with the theatre.

Q Theatre is a very "Auckland" building, connecting our heritage Queen St space
to a fantastic modern building looking out towards Myers Park. The mix of the old and the new mirrors what happens on our stages - old and new forms colliding to create fantastic arts experiences.

I'd like Chris Parker (No More Dancing in the Good Room, Hudson and Halls) to create an interpretive dance of my life, with Todd Emerson (Daffodils) to sing the soundtrack. The other option, would be Rear Window-era Jimmy Stewart.

Working in live performance means that you have to learn to keep your calm under pressure, solving problems as you go so that the audience never knows a thing. One year during the NZ International Comedy Festival, we suffered a major power outage, along with most of Queen St. We had a packed bar, with audiences hungry for a night of laughs, and I had get up on a bar stool and inform a rowdy crowd that the night's shows were cancelled - just as I reached the end of my apologetic speech, the lights all came back on, as if on cue - a close call.

The people I work with are endlessly creative, fearlessly brave and with a boundless energy. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by people who believe in putting their absolute heart and soul into their work. The creative sector in New Zealand creates such huge value for our country. The hard work behind that is often unsung.

Theatre is one of the few experiences that has the capacity to bring people together across divides on equal terms. The theatre is a space that can hold and celebrate difference. It has the capacity to take us out of our comfort zone, to challenge and expand our world view, and to do so in a way that no Netflix binge or box-set weekend can even dream of. The live experience is unbeatable, the shared experience of being part of an audience has a very powerful and intoxicating effect.

Generosity in all its forms will never go out of fashion. That, and a good glass of Talisker single malt.

The thing I'd like to change about Auckland is affordable housing and proper public transport. End of story.

I would cling, until the bulldozers came to my favourite beaches - Piha on the West Coast and Waihi on the East - essential escapes.

James Wilson is CEO of Q Theatre, celebrating its 5th Birthday this month.

- Canvas

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