“Those of us in New Zealand interested in live theater used to rely on shows put on by companies coming on tour from London. Over the last 30 years, all that has changed. Provincial professional theater groups grew up overnight. New Zealand now has its own flourishing theater,” said Colin McCulloch.
He is a New Zealander who was born and brought up in Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost town. In a sheep and farming area, Invercargill has strong Scottish associations that go back to the days of early settlement. The settlement became a city only in 1930.
“My father used to take me to concerts that were presented by Scottish singers,” Colin said. “He used to embarrass me by singing along in the back row.” Otherwise, Colin had little experience of stage shows.
He had the healthy, outdoor living of all New Zealand young people. He never played rugby, but did play basketball, and went fishing. He keeps a love of sailing. Sadly, he is subject to seasickness, and hastens to add that he is not a good sailor, just a keen one.
He entered the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand’s oldest university. Dunedin is another city with strong Scottish associations. It was planned in Edinburgh, Scotland, and given the Gaelic name for Edinburgh.
Colin chose to study psychology, a subject that left him unsatisfied. Psychology seemed to him “vague and woolly.” He said: “I came to believe that you could understand human nature better through literature and drama. They may not be so scientific, but they are more interesting. Reading psychology nearly put me off reading altogether.”
After university, he auditioned for entry to the New Zealand Drama School. Routines in the school were “pretty intense. We did a lot of voice work and movement work. We had classes every morning, improvisation in the afternoons and rehearsals in the evenings. We put on two or three productions a year, plus little in-house shows.”
After he had completed his course at the drama school, Colin joined The Court Theater, Christchurch, New Zealand’s “Garden City” in the district of Canterbury on the South Island.
He said: “I joined as an actor, and found that The Court Theater was truly professional, full-time theater, six days a week. Then I worked for various touring companies that toured schools. We used to pack ourselves into a van and put on three or four shows a day for a year. That taught us how to keep a performance fresh all the time. It was a good training ground.”
By 1990, Colin said, he was “‘tired of being an actor without much money.” He enrolled in an English-language program, and came to Japan to teach classes to company employees and the police.
“I was quite homesick at first,” he said. “I filled in time by writing.” The result was a play, “Flatmates Wanted,” that was performed at two professional theaters in New Zealand in 1992.
Colin broadened his experience. “I spent a year traveling on a bicycle in Australia,” he said. “I took casual jobs on building sites. Then I spent four months in Antarctica on an American military base that accepted students down there.” He came and went twice between New Zealand and Japan, and is now teaching drama at St. Maur International School, Yokohama.
He has a range of students from elementary through high school. “Mainly I put on productions with them,” he said. “Drama classes are really rehearsals for plays which we do in school. I tutor the kids in speech presentations, and they enter contests each year, in different categories. I work one-to-one with them, and we cover such aspects as multiple reading, standup comedy, fiction.”
Colin was billed as a newcomer to Tokyo International Players when he was named director and choreographer of the play chosen as the curtain raiser for TIP’s 102nd season of theater in Tokyo. Later he was assistant director for the final production of that season.
Now, in TIP’s 103rd season, he is directing the forthcoming production of “Private Lives.” He said: “It is a lovely play to do. Unusually for TIP, we have a young woman in the cast who is still a student at the Christian Academy. The cast is small, and they are all very good. The play is light and witty, a delight.”