Alan Smythe is the impresario behind long-running family concert Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park. His diverse CV includes being founding editor of the London Review of Books, playing cello for the Paris Opera, and hosting TV talent quest The Big Time. Behind the scenes, he adapted short stories for pioneering drama series Winners & Losers and About Face, and worked with director Roger Donaldson on some of his earliest films — including co-directing a film with him about motorcycle racer Geoff Perry. In 2001 Smythe became the founding head of Auckland University’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.
What they seemed to be looking for was a bridge between the university and the real world. In terms of audiences I have put together the biggest performing arts events in the country. Alan Smythe, on his appointment as head of Auckland University's School of Creative and Performing Arts (Scapa), The NZ Herald, 28 January 2001
Every year around Christmas time, the Auckland Domain is lit up for a star-filled night of free Christmas celebrations. Hosted by Jay Laga’aia, this 2000 edition of the concert has “more than 300,000 people” gathered for an evening of songs, carols and fireworks. Kicking off with a Christmas rap from Anthony Ray Parker and kids, the celebrations go long into the night. Stepping up to the mic are everyone from Tina Cross, Frankie Stevens and Ainslie Allen, to the cast of Shortland Street and Mai Time. The evening is capped off with a fireworks display and the arrival of Santa Claus.
When people tell the amazing story of Kiwi legend Julian Harp, Nicky doesn't get a mention. Now, in one of the New Zealand screen's classic monologues, Nicky (Lucy Sheehan, from Talkback) takes the opportunity to let us in on what really happened: her relationship with Julian, his plan to destabilize the Government via a letterwriting campaign, and the couple's preparations for the day he achieved engineless flight and rose into the sky from the Auckland Domain. This episode of anthology series About Face is based on the classic story by CK Stead, author of Smith's Dream.
Veteran actor Yvonne Lawley (Gloss, Ruby and Rata) landed her first leading role on-screen with this adaptation of a Maurice Duggan short story. Lawley plays Mary May Laverty, a proud but lonely violin teacher who craves "a little human warmth", but fails to connect with people. Awkwardness abounds when she invites the father of one of her students over. The half-hour drama was co-directed by Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson, as part of their Winners & Losers series of short story adaptations. It closely follows Duggan's original story, which was one of his most popular.
One of the earliest films made by Roger Donaldson (Sleeping Dogs), this curio chronicles the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in Aotearoa. The made for TV film features interviews with those who've swapped walk shorts for wigwams to "start again". There's rebellion against all things straight, and rejection of the city in favour of getting back to nature. Folk songs are the soundtrack to hippies, outdoor bathing, "group touching", the Blerta bus, and DIY dome housing. Counterpointing the counterculture are 1984-style scenes of masked marchers representing the silent majority.