When playwright Roger Hall emigrated to New Zealand 25 years ago, there was no theater to speak of there. There was no television, either, and the hotels--the only place to buy a drink--closed at 6 p.m. Today, he makes his living writing for the developing New Zealand show business industry, both theater and TV. And the hotels close at 10 or 11 p.m. "In the early days of TV the late show was at 9:45," he said.
He has written a play a year for the past seven years. One of them, "Middle Age Spread," played for 15 months on London's West End, and currently is running here at the Source Theatre. For the past year and a half, Hall has been traveling in the United States with his wife and two children on a Fulbright Fellowship, observing methods of teaching playwrighting. The first three months they spent in a mobile home and traveled in the Southwest, where he has just finished a semester's residency at New Mexico State.
"I found that in most places playwriting is just a one-semester course," he said. "When I teach it, it's at least a year." None of the major drama schools responded to his inquiries, so he has not had a chance to study their methods, he said.
New Zealand has only 3 million people in an area the size of California, and what was once a largely egalitarian country with almost full employment now is experiencing greater gaps between rich and poor, higher taxes, and unemployment, he said. Societal changes like these are being reflected in the plays being written. "Fifteen years ago we looked to Britain for our culture," he said. "Now we're creating our own."