Associate Professor Sharon Mazer
As an internationally-renowned academic and professional theatre director, Professor Sharon Mazer has been at the forefront of developing UC's Theatre and Film Studies programme over the past sixteen years.
'I have come to the point where I can say that teaching has become a real source of pleasure,' she says. 'It is wonderful to be at the stage of my own development where I can approach each day's work – whether in the lecture theatre, seminar room, theatre studio, or in my office as a supervisor and advisor – with confidence and an enthusiasm that I feel is shared by the majority of our students as well as my colleagues and collaborators.'
Sharon believes this is largely due to the opportunity she has had to develop robust ways of working which successfully balance the intersecting disciplines of theatre, film and performance studies. 'As a result, Theatre and Film Studies at UC is recognised nationally and internationally for its unique teaching programme and the high quality of the graduates that emerge from here.'
Sharon's approach to teaching is to encourage students to work collaboratively in making scholarly and creative projects. 'As a lecturer, I present students with the building blocks of my disciplines based on my own training as a theatre and performance studies scholar and my professional experience as a theatre director. I also work to create a platform – a systematic intellectual framework and creative environment – for students to develop their own theories and practices.'
Alongside her teaching work, Sharon has, for the past ten years, been researching a range of Māori performance practices 'from Kapa Haka to Mika Haka, and from the kinds of performances offered to tourists to the way Atamira Dance Company brings together haka with contemporary European dance'.
By contrast, her first major publication was on professional wrestling. 'It was an article in TDR The Journal of Performance Studies, in 1989, and it was the first academic study of wrestling as a performance practice. Along with my book Professional Wrestling: Sport & Spectacle (University Press of Mississippi, 1998) and various other publications since, it has inspired a whole field of study internationally.'
Sharon arrived from the US in 1994. She laughs, 'actually, I applied for this job as a joke, and I only looked at a map to find out where I was going when I came here to interview. My expectation was that I'd be here for three or four years and then go back to New York, so I guess I'm a bit of an over-stayer'.
Perhaps one reason for 'over-staying' is the fact that Sharon enjoys her work so much. 'It's fun: sitting ringside at the wrestling, in the stands at Te Matatini, riding the bus with the tourists in Rotorua, watching Mika [the subject of a book project] perform his cabaret and in the theatre seeing Atamira dance.'
Sharon advises prospective students that Theatre and Film Studies at UC is 'not for the faint-hearted or the half-way committed. But for those who choose to take up the challenge of connecting theory and practice, to experiment in making performances and films, and to discover new ideas about art and culture in the process, the results can be exhilarating.'