The Fancy Sessions: 4

The Fancy Sessions: 4

Cassandra Tse

Cass amongst foliage in a green house. She is smiling with a hand on her hip, and looking away from the camera. She is wearing a floaty elbow length top, and a confetti patterned red/pink skirt.

Job Title: Artistic Director, Red Scare Theatre Company 

Pronouns: She/Her

Cassandra wears:

Set 1: The Serene Top in White by Blak, the Confetti Vision Skirt by Kindling, and the Maria Kumara Earrings by Mrs Rockett.

Set 2: The Curious Cat T Dress by Tara Whalley, and the Black Cats Earrings by Denz.

Photography by Rosie Trott 

Kia ora Cassandra! Thank you so much for speaking with us today. What do you find inspiring about living in Wellington? 

The compact geography and walkability of this city means that there is a real sense of community here — it is impossible to walk down the street without running into someone you know. I worry that the rising rental costs and housing prices in the city are going to price a lot of young people and artists out of Wellington City, and I really hope that our politicians act soon to ensure that this sense of community can persist into the coming years.

What is your favourite art you’ve consumed recently? 

I'm a late arrival on this one, but I recently binged the first three seasons of Search Party, which is probably one of the best-written television shows of the '10s. The casting is perfect, the production design is gorgeous and perceptive, the performances toe the line between satirical humour and emotional authenticity flawlessly… I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I apologise to all my friends for ignoring them when they told me to start watching it back in 2016!

How has the last year been for you? 

I have had a surprisingly good and productive last year,  given the effect that COVID-19 has had on my industry (live theatre). I kept busy, both with teaching gigs via Zoom and through working on socially distanced projects. My company produced an audio drama series during the aftermath of Level 4 lockdown called Apocalypse Songs, with a fantastic cast and crew of some of my favourite theatre practitioners in the city.

It was a project I had written back in 2018 but had thought I would not get a chance to produce; as a silver lining of the pandemic shutdowns we were able to get a grant from CNZ to put it together, and I am really proud of the result. I did have another show on last year that had to close when we went back to Level 2 in August, but we are going to be coming back with a return season for that show later this year, which is very exciting.

You are soon to be directing Single Asian Female for Auckland Theatre Company. I would love to hear about how you’re finding the process. 

I haven't started the actual "directing" process yet as I'll be heading up to Auckland for that, but I have been doing a lot of prep work, which includes working with a really fabulous team of designers on the look and feel of the show, as well as collaborating with the playwright Michelle Law on how to localise the play to New Zealand from its original Australia.

ATC have been incredibly supportive and the casting process has been really inspiring; we have such a wealth of acting talent in New Zealand and I'm excited to get to work with the cast.

What are your favourite spots on Cuba Street?

As a coeliac, I have to give a shout out to all the amazing gluten free options up and down Cuba! 1154 Pastaria do fantastic gluten free pastas, Duck Island has GF waffle cones (and the most incredible white chocolate and roasted miso flavour).

Mother of Coffee down Left Bank has huge vegan and gluten free shared platters on injera bread which everyone should try, gluten-intolerants and gluten-lovers alike.

How would you describe your personal style, and who are your influences? 

I have a very bold, colourful, patterned style with retro influences. I shop almost exclusively at op shops (good for my wallet and good for the planet) and enjoy looking for obscure clothing items in the bargain bins.

In terms of influences, I feel like my personal aesthetic is equal parts rockabilly, 1940s housewife and Iris Apfel.

What has been your biggest revelation/lesson of the last year?

I feel like this past year has been a good time for us in the arts to take a step back and realise that our industry has a lot of harmful habits. We work ourselves to the bone until we burn out, we work through illness, we feel immense guilt about taking time off to look after ourselves — and a lot of these habits have come about because of the financial precarity inherent to working in theatre.

We don't have understudies in New Zealand and the profit share system means that calling in sick from a show affects everyone's income, not just your own. So, for me, living through the COVID-19 pandemic has changed my attitude to how health should be prioritised in theatre, both for myself and the other artists that I support as a director and producer.

What music are you listening to currently? 

I've recently been enjoying the soundtrack to In Strange Woods, a musical audio drama.

The whole audio drama is worth listening to, but the soundtrack album contains most of the show's musical highlights and features performances by some top quality Broadway actors like Patrick Page, Donna Lynne Champlin and Beth Leavel — contemporary musical theatre with a folk influence.

You can find tickets for Single Asian Female here.

You can read more about what Red Scare Theatre Company and Cassandra have coming up here. 

Photography by Rosie Trott 

Photos taken in Wellington Botanical Gardens & Begonia House 

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