“Possessed of a marvellous voice, a fierce intelligence and a wonderfully dry humour,” is how the Artistic Director of the Auckland Theatre Company, Colin McColl describes Stuart Devenie, this year’s Artistic Director of the Waipu Museum Art’nTartan Wearable Art Awards Contest and Show. The acquisition of Stuart is a major triumph for the museum for this, it’s ninth annual contest.
Stuart, well known as one of Aotearoa’s finest actors, directors and drama tutors, is quite happy to admit that the role which set him on the road to a theatrical career was his first appearance as Mr Dungbeetle in ‘The Insect Play’ at age twelve in a Hastings Junior Theatre production. From such humble beginnings his illustrious career spans four and a half decades of involvement with the performing arts, not only in the form of acting and directing in film and television but also as a senior tutor at Toi Whakaari/New Zealand Drama School. He has performed the lead in many Auckland Theatre Company productions, television dramas and movies too numerous to mention. Stuart is also one of New Zealand’s top voice-over artists with many lead roles in radio dramas and the voice of many New Zealand top-brand campaigns.
Stuart was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to entertainment in 2008 and the following year he was endowed as a New Zealand Arts Foundation Arts Laureate. Stuart and his family now live in Northland. His daughter, Laurel, has followed in her father’s footsteps and can currently be seen in as nurse Kate Nathan in Shortland Street. She says of her father, “He loves working. He believes in the storytelling. He's worked in community environments all over the country. Fame and fortune hasn't been his driving force.”
Stuart’s foray into the world of wearable art is a first for him and it is his affection for Northland and Waipu in particular that has led him to the Waipu Museum and Art’nTartan.
When asked what this new role means to him Stuart says, “I am very excited to have been invited to direct the ninth annual Waipu Museum Art’nTartan presentation.” He says he sees it as a great opportunity to work with local volunteers who have built, over the past decade, such a high quality regional and national event.
Stuart is already becoming an even more familiar face in and around the wee Scottish town as he prepares for his involvement in this year’s show in the Celtic Barn this coming July. The show is the culmination of the annual tartan celebrations which sees a whole raft of events in the town.
One of Stuart’s overriding wish is for Art’nTartan to continue to celebrate the heritage of Waipu and its link, not only with it’s Celtic and multicultural past, but its hope for the future. The compulsory inclusion of tartan in all costumes is the contest’s point of difference with other wearable art shows around the country. This year, contestants have been given complete freedom to create their designs and audiences will be wowed by the audacity and creativity of the artists. Stuart will be joined by new Production Manager Claire Drake, and the rest of the Art’nTartan organising team are hugely excited and honoured to be working with them both.
Stuart wants to preserve much of the traditional built up with the past productions, while at the same time adding new elements to refresh the presentation. Entries are already in and the no-holds-barred brief given to designers promises to captivate the audience. Stuart’s maxim is “to delight, surprise and entertain…” and it is to this end that he plans a few enhancements to what has been an extremely successful format in the past. He is introducing a new stage layout and lighting effects and plans to showcase to full advantage the wearable artworks.
Tickets are now on sale for what promises to be a spectacular event and performances are on Friday 19 July at 8pm, Saturday 20 July with a matinee at 2pm. The Awards evening starts at 8pm. Details of prices and availability are online.