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Creating a National Spirit: Celebrating New Zealand's Centennial

18: 'A More Democratic Basis': Centennial Drama

page 246

18: 'A More Democratic Basis': Centennial Drama

We frequently lament the passing of the professional theatre in New Zealand, but it has done one good thing for us; it has restored the drama to a more democratic basis by assisting in the revival of community drama. Incidentally it has enabled us to see many plays which we should otherwise have missed, for we know that the commercial is concerned mostly with box-office attractions and not necessarily with works of art. The amateur frequently has greater courage.1

These are the words of Hon W.E. Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, read to the assembled audience in the Concert Chamber of Wellington's Town Hall on Friday 26 July 1940, during the closing ceremonies for the New Zealand Centennial Drama Festival. He was recognising not only the achievement of the festival, but also the fact that it had been organised by, and was a celebration of, a vigorous amateur drama movement with a considerable history in New Zealand.

Parry was correct about the 'passing of professional theatre'. During the second half of the nineteenth century New Zealand had been firmly on the professional Australasian circuit, but gradually economic stagnation, the advent of moving pictures, and the disruptions of World War I reduced touring to a marginal commercial activity. The introduction of talking films worldwide in 1929, and then the depression, marked the end of almost all professional theatre touring on the New Zealand circuit.

Throughout the second and third decades of the century, however, local amateur drama clubs and repertory societies were being formed. Many social and community organisations (including even sports clubs) had associated drama groups, and from the mid-1920s both the Women's Division of the Farmers' Union and the Country Women's Institute regularly included sketches or short plays at local meetings. In September 1927 the South Canterbury Drama League, the first organisation formed to link a group of drama clubs, held a dramatic competition, judged by James Shelley, professor of education at Canterbury College, thus inaugurating a tradition of competitive festival presentations of one-act plays.2

In 1931 Elizabeth Blake, a visiting actress and producer active with the British Drama League in London, gave a talk on Radio 2YA advocating the formation of a page 247 national organisation of amateur dramatic societies in New Zealand, to be run along the same lines as, and affiliated to, the British Drama League.3 The following year Blake and Amy Kane (a pioneering woman journalist, prominent in many women's organisations) established a New Zealand branch of the British Drama League (BDL).4 Kane and Blake became the driving force in the organisation, travelling throughout New Zealand to encourage local clubs and establish a regional structure. Thus the BDL developed into the primary organisation for a large and active national amateur drama movement. Each year from 1933 onwards festivals of one-act play production were organised within each area, with the winners going on to provincial and eventually national finals.

The importance of one-act plays for the development of amateur theatre in New Zealand cannot be overestimated. Until the early 1930s these plays were mainly British, but as early as 1929 the NZ Radio Record and Home Journal and Tui's Annual ran a national playwriting competition,5 and Art in New Zealand, encouraging 'a New Zealand theme and location', ran competitions annually from 1931 to 1937.6 A radio talk in 1931 by Elizabeth Blake brought a deluge of letters from Women's Institute drama groups expressing their difficulties in finding suitable plays to perform. The NZ Radio Record, and the New Zealand Dairy Exporter with which it was associated, responded with another competition for plays 'capable of presentation wholly by women [which] should not take longer than 20 to 30 minutes'.7 The winning plays were almost immediately issued in an anthology called Plays for Country Women.8 The BDL ran annual one-act playwriting competitions (not restricted to female casts) with the NZ Radio Record, and these were so successful that the best plays were assembled and published annually for several years.9 By the middle of the decade radio was also seeking scripts, to the extent that Art in New Zealand blamed the substantial drop in entries for its 1936 competition on the 'handsome prizes' offered by the state broadcasting service, and the lure of 'high pecuniary reward and prestige'. One report claimed that 1,157 plays were broadcast in the 1938-9 year, and that 'much of this production was of New Zealand plays'.10 But this is almost certainly an inflated figure.11 A more sober assessment may be based on the recording for broadcast in 1940 of seven plays, of which only one was by a New Zealand author. Nevertheless, the drama department of the National Broadcasting Service received hundreds of scripts each year, of which about a third came from New Zealand.12 Evidently, despite few plays reaching the air, many writers were hopeful.

Another source of both playwriting and amateur play production was the growing number of left-leaning organisations in the late 1930s, such as the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) and the Left Book Club. The People's Theatre in Auckland emphasised New Zealand writing (almost exclusively that of R. A. K. Mason), and it ran its own playwriting competition in 1938.13

Thus, when detailed planning for the Centennial was undertaken towards the end of the 1930s, it was at the end of a decade of remarkable growth, vitality, and page 248 national self-consciousness for drama production and playwriting in New Zealand.

Planning for the national centennial music and drama celebrations started with a 1936 submission to Parry as the Minister of Internal Affairs. By early 1938 definite proposals were being considered. James Shelley, long involved in the BDL and amateur drama,14 put forward to J. W. Heenan, Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, a scheme mainly concerned with music whereby the National Broadcasting Service, of which Shelley was now Director, should take overall responsibility in order to ensure 'that the Celebrations shall be of a National character and shall avoid as far as possible any difficulties that might arise from jealousies between various societies and organisations already in existence'.15 Presumably Shelley was well aware of Heenan's determination that the celebrations should be national, and was submitting advice he thought would be acceptable to the man who, more than anyone else, put his stamp on the centennial.16 Shelley's proposal was largely adopted, with a recommendation to Parry in November 1938 'that as a community New Zealand has not developed culturally as it has in other directions, and we feel that advantage should be taken of the Centennial ... to make a special feature of the musical and dramatic side of the celebrations'.I7 It was accepted that the musical celebrations should be national in character, and that in view of the fact that there is in existence no organization representing New Zealand musical interests as a whole... the musical and dramatic festivals should be under the direct control of the National Broadcasting Service (representing the National Centennial Council)'.18 Shelley himself was appointed to chair a national centennial music committee, which was to assist the National Broadcasting Service.19

The committee sometimes had the word 'Drama' in its title, but was more often referred to simply as the National Centennial Music Committee; and one finds references to the dramatic festivals being produced 'during Music Week'.20 This apparent privileging of music over drama may derive partly from Shelley's immediate musical ambitions for Broadcasting, partly from the decision to import professional musicians, and partly from music at the time having no national organisation.21 For drama, however, the BDL already constituted a national organisation with a well-established pattern of running amateur local, regional, and national drama production and playwriting competitions, with a particular focus on one-act plays. Futhermore, Shelley, as an avid amateur drama practitioner himself, had many contacts within the BDL, and no doubt felt entirely confident of what the amateur societies could achieve. The National Centennial Music Committee therefore resolved at its first meeting to ask the BDL to conduct a Centennial Drama Festival parallel to the Centennial Music Festival.22 The BDL agreed to forego its usual festival activities for the year and to waive some of its usual rules, in particular the requirement that all contestants be members. This was important, since a number of societies objected to the competitive aspect of BDL festivals, and some of the socialist groups were openly hostile.23 Instead, an effort was made to encourage as much participation as page 249
Regulations of the National Centennial Competition for One Act Plays. National Archives, Internal Affairs, IA1, 62/59/1, Pt.4.

Regulations of the National Centennial Competition for One Act Plays. National Archives, Internal Affairs, IA1, 62/59/1, Pt.4.

page 250 possible from all parts of New Zealand. Just as the music festival was to have provincial competitions for choirs and string quartets, with a national final in Wellington, so the drama festival would have a competition for one-act play production for drama groups from around the country. And like the music competition for original composition, there was to be a competition for stage and radio playscripts. A statement issued after a meeting in late 1939 between representatives of the National Centennial Music Committee and the BDL insisted that cthe idea behind the national Festival of Drama is not to have a mere sudden activity which will die down on the completion of the competition, but to give an impetus to the study and practice of drama whose good effects will carry on indefinitely stimulating the cultural side of New Zealand life'.24

For the Centennial Drama Festival the country was divided into four regions, each organising elimination festivals leading to four provincial finals in mid-July. From each provincial final one production would be selected to represent the region at the national final in Wellington on 26 July 1940. The entry forms stipulated that the play offered must be '"playworthy"; i.e., of sufficient dramatic merit', have a minimum of four speaking parts (excluding bit parts), and be of 30-45 minutes duration.25 A cash prize of £50 was offered to the winning team, with a second prize of £20. Travelling expenses for teams chosen for the national final were to be met by the National Centennial Council.

Well over seventy teams participated, with regional festivals in Otago, Westland, South Canterbury, Manawatu, Wairarapa, and Waikato as well as in the four main centres. Although many of the groups were from the larger towns and cities, the geographical spread was very wide. The Otago final, for instance, included a team from Wyndham, the Canterbury-Westland final a team from Hokitika, and at the Auckland elimination festival an all-woman cast from the Northland Players made proud reference to overcoming the difficulties of transport for a cast spread over fifty miles of rural Northland.26 This and many other groups were hampered by wartime petrol restrictions (a problem for the centennial celebrations generally)27; for example, the Canterbury organiser wrote urgent letters to A. W. Mulligan (General Secretary of the Centennial Branch of Internal Affairs) seeking concessions on train and bus fares for teams travelling from Hokitika and Christchurch to the regional final in Timaru.28

The drama groups varied greatly. The ten teams participating in the Auckland elimination festival provide an interesting and in many respects representative selection. Auckland's Grafton Shakespeare and Dramatic Club, founded in 1912 or 1913, was probably the oldest amateur drama society in the country.29 The Auckland Repertory Theatre, the Sheridan Players, the Northland Players and the Auckland Judean Dramatic Club were all more recent drama societies founded in the 1930s (the latter unusual in drawing all its members from Auckland's small Jewish community). The other entrants came from larger organisations: three Women's page 251
Front cover of the official souvenir programe for the Auckland Centennial Drama Festival, 1940. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Eph-A-DRAMA-1940-01-cover.

Front cover of the official souvenir programe for the Auckland Centennial Drama Festival, 1940. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Eph-A-DRAMA-1940-01-cover.

Institute drama circles, the drama club from the Auckland Teachers Training College, and the WEA Dramatic Club (notable not only for high technical standards, but for being in the forefront of 'progressive' theatres in the 1930s).30 WE As, teachers training colleges, women's institutes, and repertory societies were also well represented elsewhere in the country. The strength of the repertory societies in New Zealand is attested to by the fact that they won three of the four places in the national final. In addition, there were drama clubs from churches, schools, old girls' associations, universities and social clubs. In at least one case, the Kenilworth Players from Hamilton, the group was formed in order to produce the particular play.

The circumstances of production were carefully regulated so that up to four one-act plays could be presented in an evening. Drapes and simple lighting were provided on stage, but any additional set had to be capable of being set up in no more than eight minutes, and being removed in four minutes.31 And winners, of course, had to be prepared for a totally different stage and auditorium each time they advanced in the competition. The eventual winning play, for instance, was first page 252 presented at the Radiant Hall in Christchurch (home of the Canterbury Repertory Theatre Society) for the Christchurch elimination festival, then at the Theatre Royal, Timaru, for the provincial final, and, for the national final, at the Concert Chamber of the Wellington Town Hall. Actors and production crews alike, therefore, had to be adaptable as well as efficient.

The range of plays presented within these limitations is astonishingly wide, from tragedy to farce, from well-made plays to European expressionism, from Shakespeare to fledgling New Zealand authors, from Synge's Riders to the Sea to Coward's Family Album. There was a preponderance, however, of light comedy sketches of little dramatic merit (and by authors now forgotten), and several adjudicators criticised the lack of substance in the choices. The one-act form, plus casting limitations, particularly for the all-woman groups, had clearly resulted in some unadventurous decisions. Good comedy was appreciated, however: one of the most successful all-women casts in Auckland humorously portrayed life among the staff of a large girls' school, another in a hospital,32 and the winning play in Christchurch was Noel Coward's Family Album. More serious work was also presented, sometimes reflecting concerns about the war. In Wellington, for instance, the Newlands Women's Institute Drama Circle did M. E. Atkinson's The Chimney Corner, a play about women spies in Belgium during the First World War hiding an English soldier from the Germans.33 (One of the best plays of the literary competition—see below—was also concerned with spies and German soldiers.)34 The Christchurch WEA's entry, Official Announcement^ cmade fairly credible the tragic situation of a family of Jewish extraction in Nazi Germany'.35 The Funk Hole by Harold Brighouse (of Hobson's Choice fame) was chosen by two Wellington groups, perhaps for its topicality: subtitled 'A Farce of the Crisis', it is set in England in 1938 in a country cottage to which city people have retreated for fear of air raids.36 'The Funk Hole' became the derisive name given by opposition MPs and others to the parliamentary bunker established during the war for the Prime Minister and Cabinet.37

The Christchurch adjudicator, J.J.W. Pollard, commented that 'there are New Zealand plays which would have been better than some of those we have seen this week'. Support for both writing and producing New Zealand plays had been part of BDL policy from its inception, but there were only two in the Christchurch elimination festival.38 One of them, Te Mere-Pounamu, was praised in The Press as more ambitious than some of the dramatic sketches, with talented players and 'fidelity, in its atmosphere, to ancient Maori beliefs'.39 Janet McLeod, who not only wrote it but also produced it for the Christchurch Teachers Training College, had already published two volumes of plays for children on Maori themes,40 and was to win a prize for a full-length play in the literary competition. Another to be directed by its author was Kenilworth Players' Flight from Cumnor, the opening act of the full-length Amy Robsart, which the young Rosalie Seddon (later Rosalie Carey of the Globe Theatre, Dunedin) had adapted from Scott's novel Kenilworth and presented in Hamilton earlier that year.41

page 253

Although only a handful of original plays seem to have been entered, two of them reached the national final. One was Francis Renner's Wellington Repertory Theatre production of his own play Soundings, a drama about the burial of a schooner captain at sea; the other was J. A. S. Coppard's Sordid Story. Coppard's play, presented by Auckland Repertory Theatre, was not new; it had been first performed at the Scottish Drama Festival in 1932, won the 1935 New Zealand BDL national one-act play production competition, and was published in 1939. But by amateur theatre standards at the time it was certainly, as the New Zealand Herald reviewer put it, 'far removed from the orthodox'.42 An expressionist drama drawing on European models, its setting is 'intended to convey the impression of a living cranium into which the audience is looking from the back'.43 The man's somewhat mechanistic mind is peopled by actors in stylised costumes and make-up representing attributes such as Eye, Ear, Memory, Fear, Jealousy, and Anger, from whose interaction the audience learns the 'sordid story' of a brutal and pointless murder. The Auckland adjudicator who selected Sordid Story to advance to the provincial final, Margaret Barr (a recently arrived English dancer and movement teacher), encouraged drama clubs to present more New Zealand work. It was wrong, she said, 'for clubs to copy the drama of other countries when the country's own drama was awaiting expression. By co-operation and continued improvisation, the dramatic clubs, perhaps not for 15 or 20 years, could give to the country a drama of its own.'44

The adjudicators had nine published criteria to use in reaching their decisions, ranging from dramatic merit and general interpretation to ensemble and individual acting and production achievement. Although adjudicators were, for all the competitions, explicitly free from any obligation to explain how they reached their decisions, most of them willingly followed the BDL tradition of giving detailed criticism of each production. Newspapers report detailed comment on speech, gesture, movement and characterisation of the actors, and of setting, grouping, pace and other production values. The adjudicators often commented on the suitability of the plays chosen to the talents of the group, and on how ambitious the choices were. Although the judges could be severe, they were usually encouraging, and gratitude for the criticism from established experts was often voiced (at least publicly). A typical example of comment is Margaret Barr's summation of a semi-finalist in Auckland, the WEA's presentation of Synge's Riders to the Sea: 'The aim was evidently atmosphere rather than clarity of diction, which left much room for improvement, but the players succeeded very well in conveying Celtic fatalism and the idea of brooding fate and a malignant sea. The effect was heightened by a very sombre setting of black drapes'; but Miss Barr was concerned 'that the corpse of the drowned peasant lad had been displayed more conspicuously than was really necessary'.45 At the Otago Provincial Final, Ngaio Marsh (who had started her own theatrical career touring with the Allan Wilkie company in 1919-20) noted that the top three teams were separated in her marking by only a single point. The Otago Daily Times reviewer may well have been quoting her when he described the WEA page 254
Soundings, written and produced by F. M. Rener for Wellington Repertory Theatre. Welington Repertory Theatre Archive.

Soundings, written and produced by F. M. Rener for Wellington Repertory Theatre. Welington Repertory Theatre Archive.

Drama Class's winning production of Vindication, by Leonard J. Hines and Frank King, as a 'grim and tragic drama' performed with a 'stark realism' which 'left the most profound impression' on the audience.46 In Christchurch, The Press reviewer had reservations about Noel Coward's 'rather shallow but amusingly cynical wit',47 but the adjudicator praised the Repertory Society's decision to produce Coward's Family Album: 'it was an excellent choice for competition, with its emotional variety and big cast. It was not great, but very clever, and should be a lesson to every other team.'48 The Repertory Society, according to The Press, 'had the advantage of being in general more experienced than the other competitors'.49 In Wellington, realism seems to have been the critical yardstick. Bernard Beeby (Shelley's co-producer at Canterbury Rep prior to joining him at Broadcasting as Director of Radio Drama)50 criticised Nola Millar's production of a backstage ballet play called Swan Song (for the Wellington East Old Girls' Dramatic Society) because the actresses 'were all too ladylike for the atmosphere of the dressing-room of a corps de ballet'. His criteria were better met by Francis Renner's production of his own play Soundings: '. . . the stage looking like the ship it was meant to represent and the actors looking and sounding page 255 like sailors'.51 This was the play he selected to advance to the national final.

The national final was held in Wellington on 26 July 1940 in front of a capacity audience in the Concert Chamber. The finalists were Auckland Repertory's Sordid Story, Wellington Repertory's Soundings, Canterbury Repertory's Family Album, and the Dunedin WEA's Vindication. The adjudicators—May Macdonald, a very experienced BDL producer for Napier Repertory Players,32 A. E. Lawrence, the indefatigable South Canterbury organiser, and James Shelley—awarded first place to Canterbury Repertory, with Wellington Repertory second. The adjudicators took care to assure the audience that their decisions had been unanimous, but they commented that it was hard to compare, for instance, "Sordid Story", which was based on the Russian theory of monodrama, with "Soundings", which ... depended on gruesome realism'. They emphasised, however, the high standard of all the productions: 'each stood out in some way'.53

Another part of the celebrations on the final night of the National Centennial Festival of Drama was the announcement of the winners of the playwriting competition for a radio play and a one-act stage play. The Deputy Prime Minister, Walter Nash, announced that the written radio play competition, judged by officers of the National Broadcasting Service,54 was effectively a three-way draw, and that it had been decided to split the prize money for first and second place (£70 and £30 respectively) equally among the three plays: Hell Ship of the Pacific by Mrs A.M. Green, Nostalgia by Gladys Judd, and Ramsay of Burntwood by Russell Reid.

In a more surprising move, the judges of the one-act stage play competition (also from the National Broadcasting Service) decided that none of the plays was of a sufficiently high standard to win first prize (£70), and that the two best plays were each to be awarded the equivalent of second prize (£30). These were Stop Press by Ian Ronald McLean and It isto Live by Marguerite Thomas.

Entirely separate from these two competitions, and indeed from the Music and Drama Festival altogether, was a full-length play competition conducted as part of the literary competitions. The plays had to be of three acts, each act being about forty minutes. Fifty-odd entries were received, and were judged by Victoria University's former Professor of Modern Languages G.W. von Zedlitz (who, ironically for a centennial judge, during World War I had been deprived of his university position by a government more concerned about his German genes than his academic and public service to New Zealand).55 He was assisted by his son-in-law, D. O. W. Hall, an aspiring writer who was publicity officer for the National Centennial Committee.56 The chairman of the literary committee, historian and parliamentary librarian Guy Scholefield, commented in his report to the minister on the 'difficulty of comparing plays of widely different types, from broad farce to high tragedy'. His report noted that many of the plays 'dealt with subjects from New Zealand History—Wakefield chiefly, then Hobson or Waitangi'. He added, wryly, 'Wakefield is certainly not an easy subject—nor is Hobson'. He was impressed page 256 with the 'admirable spirit' of several plays on 'the relations between Maori and Pakeha ... the winning play itself has the boldly original theme of a tragedy of Maori life in the 17th century'.57 Von Zedlitz had sent the play to Sir Apirana Ngata for scrutiny in respect of 'the correctness of the presentation of Maori custom etc', and Ngata had 'expressed himself as well pleased with it'.58 The play was The Snare, by Janet McLeod, whose Te Mere-Pounamu won some praise in the Christchurch drama festival eliminations, but failed to advance to the provincial final. The next prize went to Audrey Leathes for Dark the Path, 'a good representative of another group of plays, those animated by a spirit of idealism'.59 The final comment in the report was that 'the most striking characteristic of a number of good plays was the influence of the cinema. Clearly it would be surprising were it otherwise. A very powerful spy story, an elaborate play dealing with Captain Cook, a study in character change from gold-digger to heroine are examples of plays better adapted to the film than the stage, and there were many more'60

Walter Nash, closing the Centennial Drama Festival, was more directly disparaging of film.

'There is a great debt due to the repertory people throughout the Dominion and to the British Drama League for the splendid contribution they are making to the education and culture of our people,' said Mr. Nash. 'It is a magnificent contribution, because we are getting tired, and because we are satisfied with going to the brilliancy of the pictures, but unless we do get back as individuals and take from the past and built [sic] into the future what individuals can give in the form of the drama, then we will go back as a nation; we will go back as individuals.'61

The reference here to 'what individuals can give' emphasises the educational value of drama in a democracy. Amateur participation was highly regarded, which may explain why so much more attention was given in these celebrations to performing plays than to writing them. It also partly explains why one-act plays were the focus of the celebrations. Many amateur drama societies, particularly the large urban repertory societies, regularly produced full-length plays (mainly recent West End comedy hits), but the BDL's focus on one-act play competitions throughout the 1930s had established a pattern for local, regional and national festivals.62

Other ideals were also being voiced. The Otago Daily Times, for instance, praised those members of the amateur theatre who addressed 'topics of deep and vital interest' which the commercial theatre had abandoned: 'the amateur stage has not hesitated on occasions to explore these fields, and has thereby more than justified its existence'.63 A nationalist desire for more New Zealand writing was also apparent, and Margaret Barr in Auckland was not alone in her plea for drama societies to 'give to the country a drama of its own'. The Auckland provincial final was notable for page 257 having three local plays out of four, and even the national final had two of the four finalist groups presenting New Zealand plays. This was an impulse that, with its roots in amateur theatre, was already developing through radio drama, and would eventually mature once there was a professional theatre in New Zealand for which to write. Nor was the discussion of professional theatre completely absent in 1940, as was evident in the same Otago Daily Times editorial: 'it is to be hoped that with the conclusion of the Dominion-wide programme that has been arranged, widespread benefit will be derived by a cause whose complete fulfilment still awaits the establishment of a national theatre.'64 In the event, it was not a 'national theatre' on the British model that would bring professional theatre back to New Zealand as an indigenous cultural enterprise; nevertheless, the widespread 'study and practice of the drama' in amateur theatre, as supported by the BDL and other amateur groups, and the Centennial Drama Festival, provided the foundation for later developments such as the New Zealand Players, and, eventually, our current pattern of regional professional theatre.

1 Parry to F. V. Sanderson, 23 July 1940, Internal Affairs (IA), series 1, 62/59/1, Pt.l, National Archives (NA).

2 Averille Lawrence, Curtain Call: Fifty Years of Amateur Theatre in Timaru by the South Canterbury Drama League, 1927-1977 [PTimaru: South Canterbury Drama League, 1977], pp.[1-2].

3 'To Develop National Drama', New Zealand Radio Record and Home Journal (NZRR), 24 June 1932, 'Of Feminine Interest' page by 'Patricia'.

4 See Peter Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance: New Zealand Theatre 1920-1970 (Wellington: Methuen, 1978), p.70.

5 NZRR, 22 March 1929, p.6.

6 For a discussion of the growth of New Zealand playwriting and amateur play production at this time, see J. M. Thomson, New Zealand Drama 1930-1980 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1984), pp.12-13, and Howard McNaughton, New Zealand Drama (Boston: Twayne, 1981), pp.28-9.

7 NZRR, 5 June 1931, p.4.

8 Plays for Country Women (Wellington: NZ Dairy Exporter and Farm Home Journal, and the NZ Radio Record, [1931]).

9 Seven One-Act Plays (Wellington: The NZ Radio Record, under the auspices of the British Drama League(BDL) (New Zealand Branch), 1933); Seven One-Act Plays 1934, (Wellington: The NZ Radio Record /British Drama League, 1934); Six One-Act Plays, 1935 and Further One-Act Plays, 1935 (Wellington: National Magazines, under the auspices of the British Drama League (New Zealand Branch), 1935); 'Clay' and Other New Zealand One-Act Plays (Wellington: National Magazines/BDL, 1936). In addition, Eric Bradwell, whose Clay was the 1936 collection's title play, had Four One-Act Plays published by George Allen and Unwin (London, 1935), with an introduction by Elizabeth Blake on behalf of the BDL.

10 Patrick Day, The Radio Years: A History of Broadcasting in New Zealand (Auckland: Auckland University Press in association with the Broadcasting History Trust, 1994), p.252.

11 Patrick Day, private communication.

12 New Zealand Listener, 19 April 1940.

13 See Rachel Barrowman, A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand, 1930-1950 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1991), pp.71, 174-84; and Howard McNaughton, 'Drama', in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (OHNZL), Terry Sturm ed (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1991), p.287.

14 See Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, esp. pp.30-31 and 61-65.

15 James Shelley to J. W. A. Heenan, 28 March 1938, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.l.

16 See Michael Bassett, The Mother of All Departments: The History of the Department of Internal Affairs (Auckland: Auckland University Press, in association with the Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1997), pp.110-11.

18 Heenan to Parry, 13 April 1939,1A 1,62/59/1, Pt.l. The recommendation was confirmed two days later.

19 Shelley to Heenan, 28 March 1938, IA 1,62/59/1, Pt.l; also minutes of the first meeting (21 April 1939) of the National Centennial Music Committee, IA 1,62/59/1, Pt.l; New Zealand Centennial Newsletter (NZCN), no.14, 15 August 1940, p.28; and Day, The Radio Years, pp.249-50.

20 See, e.g., minutes of the National Centennial Music Committee, 21 April 1939, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.l; and the heading 'Centennial Music Festivals' for an article about both the music and drama festivals in NZCN, no.14, 15 August 1940, p.28.

21 Minutes of the National Centennial Music Committee, 23 August 1939, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.l.

22 Minutes of the National Centennial Music Committee, 21 April 1939, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.l.

23 McNaughton, 'Drama', OHNZL, p.287.

24 'National Centennial Competition for One Act Plays', 5 February 1940, IA 1,62/59/1; see also 'Biggest Yet: Plans for Centennial Drama Festival', New Zealand Listener, 24 May 1940, p.l 1. (Note that the terminology can be confusing, since both 'drama' and 'one-act play' were used to refer to eithei; play production or playwriting. 'Drama Festival', however, referred in most cases to the production competition for one-act plays, with playwriting usually identified separately.)

25 Regulations: National Centennial Competition for One Act Plays, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.4.

26 Programme, Auckland Centennial Drama Festival, p. 12. Copies are held by Auckland Public Library and the Ephemera Section, National Library.

27 Bassett, Mother of All Departments, p.l 13.

28 Lawrence to Mulligan, 1 and 5 July 1940, IA 1, 62/59/1.

29 Programme, Auckland Centennial Drama Festival, p.13, says 1912; the 1913 date comes from the New Zealand Herald (NZH), 25 November 1972.

30 See Barrowman, A Popular Vision, pp. 175-7.

31 Regulations: National Centennial Competition for One Act Plays, IA 1,62/59/1, Pt.4.

32 NZH, 10 July 1940, p.12.

33 Dominion, 16 July 1940, p.12; Evening Post, 16 July 1940, p.15.

34 G.W. von Zedlitz, 'Report on Plays', IA 1, 62/9/3.

35 The Press, 28 June 1940, p.4.

36 Programme, Wellington Elimination Festival, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.5; and Dominion, 18 July 1940.

37 W. N. Sheat, private communication.

38 The Press, 1 July 1940, Tor Women', p.2.

39 The Press, 29 June 1940, p.8.

40 Howard McNaughton, New Zealand Drama: A Bibliographical Guide (Christchurch: University of Canterbury Library, 1974), p.52. In the printed programme Christchurch Teachers Training College is listed as Canterbury Training College.

41 This episode is given fleeting mention in Rosalie Carey, A Theatre in the House: The Careys' Globe (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1999), p.ll.

42 NZH, 11 July 1940, p.12.

43 J. A. S. Coppard, Sordid Story, in Twelve One-Act Plays from the International One-Act Play Theatre, Elizabeth Everard ed (London: Allen and Unwin, 1939), p.297. Further discussion of the play may be found in McNaughton, New Zealand Drama, pp.35-6, Thomson, New Zealand Drama 1930-1980, p.24, and, for Coppard's earlier writing for university extravaganzas, Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, pp.40-41.

44 NZH, 13 July 1940, p. 12.

45 NZH, 10 July 1940, p.12.

46 Otago Daily Times, 12 July 1940, p.7.

47 The Press, 28 June 1940, p.4.

48 The Press, 1 July 1940, 'For Women', p.2.

49 The Press, 28 June 1940, p.4.

50 Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, pp.65, 74-5; McNaughton, The Canterbury Repertory Theatre, pp.[2-3]; Day, The Radio Years, p.251.

51 Dominion, 15 July 1940, p.5; Evening Post, 15 July 1940, p.4.

32 NZH, 10 July 1940, p.12.

53 NZCN, no. 14, 15 August 1940, p.31.

54 Shelley to Mulligan, 30 July 1940, IA 1, 62/59/1, Pt.5.

55 See Nelson Wattie, 'George von Zedlitz', in Eminent Victorians, Vincent O'Sullivan ed (Wellington: Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, 2000), pp.139-41.

56 W. L. Renwick, private communication.

57 Chairman, Literary Committee, to Parry, 14 March 1940, IA 1, 62/9/3.

58 G.W. von Zedlitz, 'Report on Plays', IA 1, 62/9/3.

59 Chairman, Literary Committee, to Parry, 14 March 1940, IA 1, 62/9/3. See also IA 1, 62/104/4.

60 Chairman, Literary Committee, to Parry, 14 March 1940, IA 1, 62/9/3.

61 'Drama Final; Won By Canterbury; Wellington Second', Evening Post, 27 July 1940, p.20.

62 See Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, pp.49-75.

63 Otago Daily Times, 13 July 1940, p. 10.

64 Otago Daily Times, 13 July 1940, p.l0.