Rosalyn Lesurf-Olner and the power of creativity

Rosalyn Lesurf-Olner
Mrs Krishnan's Party. Image courtesy of Indian Ink
Mrs Krishnan's Party. Image courtesy of Indian Ink
Mrs Krishnan's Party. Image courtesy of Indian Ink
Falling in love with Aotearoa when visiting is easy. Rosalyn Lesurf-Olner did exactly that and decided to stay, bringing her international experience to a much admired, multi-cultural enterprise.

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Award-winning theatre company Indian Ink has made a name for themselves around the world with their thought-provoking productions. Using a blend of live music, spectacle, humour and pathos, the company deliver stunning entertainment that shines a spotlight on the real world. Rosalyn Lesurf-Olner has joined the team as Producer from one of the UK’s largest and most innovative regional theatres, Birmingham Repertory Theatre. She spoke to Alice Geary about what she hopes to bring to the role.

Rosalyn first fell in love with New Zealand during a trip in 2015 and moved here permanently in 2018.  At Indian Ink, Rosalyn will be responsible for supporting the much loved brand in producing new work and for managing their international and national tours. Describing her new role, she said “the best thing is working with an amazingly driven and creative team who have got many years’ experience in creating beautiful and poetic theatre that has a massive impact in the New Zealand art scene.

Engaging with Different Communities

With a strong background in community engagement and audience development, Rosalyn will continue to grow the company’s audiences. “Part of my role is going to be looking at how we expand our audiences so that they are a true reflection of the makeup of the societies and communities that were performing for.”

One of Rosalyn’s biggest achievements to date was a community focused production which brought together a hundred community performers, many of whom had never even been inside a theatre. “It was a hugely diverse company that reflected the makeup of the amazingly diverse city that the theatre sat within,” she explained. “My role wasn't just in producing the show itself but was also recruiting people and creating a six-month skills development project – covering singing, dancing, acting and music – so they learnt new skills. They became enthused about theatre and really found a home there.”

Accessibility in the Arts

Making theatre accessible is a particular focus for Rosalyn and she is dedicated to finding ways to connect with people who have never experienced it.  

“I was lucky enough to do a project with the deaf community back in the UK in 2017 and since then I’ve really tried to be an advocate for accessibility in the arts. As a result, I started learning British sign language and since coming here I’ve started to learn New Zealand sign language as well. I'm really excited that Indian Ink is going to be doing their first interpreted performance of a show this year.”

Rosalyn believes that increasing access to the arts is now more important than ever. “We’re in a place where people aren’t necessarily encouraged to say how they feel and art is often looked on as something that's just a pretty add-on. Using the power of creativity as a channel for funnelling your emotions is a valuable tool for everybody.”

Art for All Ages

Rosalyn also feels strongly about supporting emerging artists to develop their work, particularly older artists who she thinks are too often overlooked. “There seem to be multiple opportunities for emerging artists when they are newly graduated from University or when they're under 26, but opportunities to engage in the arts, and initiatives to support people getting involved, shouldn't stop when they become an adult. I'm super passionate about ensuring that theatre is accessible throughout your life and finding pathways for people to fuel their own creativity at all ages.”

Advice to Live By

Rosalyn credits her family as one of the biggest influences on her pursuing a career in the sector. “I was lucky to grow up in a family full of artists, creators and makers so I was exposed to theatre at a really young age.” She recounts that she has “been fortunate enough to work alongside many amazing women in theatre who are influential, strong, caring, brave and dedicated. They’ve shaped a lot of who I am, my values and how I want to work. I’ve learnt from and been inspired by them.”

If she could give advice to her younger self on starting a career in theatre, she says she would “encourage myself to trust my gut instincts. I would relish learning from others and keep questioning. I would have more confidence in my own voice.”

Her most important advice to others looking to get into the industry?

“Work hard and be nice to people. And if you feel like you ‘should’ do something – don’t do it. Do it because you want to and then it will come from an authentic place.”

 

All images kindly supplied by Indian Ink. Performance shots of their recent production, Mrs Krishnan's Party; photography by Ankita Singh.

 

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Written by

Alice Geary

28 Apr 2019

Alice Geary is a journalist from the UK based in Timaru. She is well experienced in and loves the arts and culture sector. She particularly loves having the opportunity to write about cultural events and new initiatives shaking up the industry.

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