What: Basement Visions: Working on my Night moves
Where & when: Basement Theatre, Wednesday, March 6 – Saturday, March 23
In its 11 years, the Basement Theatre has become the go-to venue for emerging performers and audiences who want to see new New Zealand work that's different to what's on mainstream stages.
Now the "little theatre that could" is expanding what it does so performers who are no longer "new and emerging" still have a place to play. It's launched Basement Visions, a programme to help more established artists continue to experiment, grow and take their work offshore.
The first Visions show is Working on My Night Moves, a new live art piece by award-winning theatre-makers Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan. The duo has gained a dedicated following for feminist-inspired productions Medusa, Power Ballad and If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming.
Power Ballad and If There's Not Dancing have been performed overseas, with Croft invited to the Battersea Arts Centre in London to develop Working on My Night Moves. She describes it as an attempt to disperse power more evenly, break free of hierarchies and foster new social relations.
Croft says there's a core group of people who come to see her shows in New Zealand but believes it's growing with each new production: "There's been a massive shift in the last four years or so with more people coming along. I think rather than waiting for a seat at the table, we've been building our own tables."
It's a view shared by Elyssia Wilson-Heti of FAFSWAG, which started life as a visual arts outfit for queer indigenous creatives. It's recently shown work at Centre Pompidou in Paris and at Sydney's experimental art festival, Liveworks.
Wilson-Heti leads FAFSWAG's team for its Visions show in September and says it will be quite distinct from what the collective has previously made.
"I want to make a show with a cast of all women of colour across the gender spectrum, exploring sexuality, sexual agency, desires and gender norms with an urban Pacific context," she says. "I feel there's a real need for these stories to be told and made by women of colour for women of colour, pushing conversations that we actively have in private but never in public spaces."
Both Wilson-Heti and Croft say they see audiences hungering for better representation on stage so a programme like Basement Visions will help to ensure work is made to feed that demand.
"It definitely feels like were in the middle of a cultural shift and that's exciting to be living through," says Wilson-Heti.
It also benefits artists by providing more pathways, says Croft.
"Once you're no longer 'new and emerging' but you still want to make work that's not conventional, there's no space for that. It can be a little bit disheartening when you think about the lack of pathways here so it's good that there's now a programme that offers you support to level up."
Performers who launched their careers at the Basement are starting to enjoy global recognition. Rose Matafeo, who won the top comedy award at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, first appeared there aged just 17 while independent theatre company The Last Tapes and performer Stella Reid both left the Scottish capital with Fringe First awards for their respective shows Valerie and The Basement Tape.