- Current students
Head of School, Creative Industries
School of Creative Industries
Dr. Vanessa Byrnes
Head of Practice Pathway: Creative Industries
Dr. Vanessa Byrnes is an award-winning director, actor, producer and performance teacher who’s worked extensively in film and theatre in New Zealand and overseas. She has led and collaborated on more than 150 theatre and screen productions during the past 25 years in everything from independent, self-funded works to major international productions. This includes numerous feature films, short films, television commercials/drama, radio, and theatre. She is a passionate advocate of the power of creativity, the significance of the role of the artist in society, and the quality and innovation of New Zealand work.
In 2000 Vanessa was the first Australasian to assistant-direct at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, staging The Two Noble Kinsmen for the Globe’s main stage with director Tim Carroll and the Red Company at The Globe. In 2015 she directed a heavily-cut and highly contemporary version of Antony and Cleopatra for Unitec’s third year actors, which was recently reworked for 9 shows at Auckland’s Pop-up Globe theatre season (28 March- 9 April 2016).
Vanessa was Senior Acting tutor and Manager of the Acting Department at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School; in over 11 years there she also taught acting and directed productions at Toi Whakaari and Victoria University. In tertiary environments and professionally, she has directed many classic, contemporary, devised and text-based theatre productions.
Vanessa trained at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School (Acting, 1994) and Waikato University (MA, 1992: PhD, 2015). Her doctorate focussed on directing, looking at the praxis of selected New Zealand text-based theatre directors. She is currently writing further in this area. She has held senior leadership roles for various arts education bodies, and freelances under her own production company. Vanessa is a past Board Member of Downstage Theatre, PlayMarket, the Shakespeare Globe Centre (NZ) and TAPAC: The Auckland Performing Arts Centre. As a director and producer she brings compassion, rigour and craft to the table.
Vanessa is thrilled to be stepping into this role at Unitec and extending the excellence already on offer in Creative Industries.
“Unitec offers excellent staff and student educational opportunities that is characterised by the ‘threshold’ Applied Learning space. This implies oppositional and reciprocal points of view. Creative brilliance so often stems from such dichotomies. Unitec’s maxim of ‘Think. Do’ aligns with my own philosophy of the necessary opposites that combine to teach and unlock creative processes: thinking and feeling; planning and application; structure and freedom; habit and disruption; logic and imagination; tradition and the search for originality. I can think of no better place than Unitec to combine the artistic and practical sides of the self to collectively drive intelligent, connected, and innovative Creative Industries education on a world-class scale.”
Byrnes, Vanessa. (2020). 'Here is my space; the nobleness of life is to do thus': Democratizing Performance and Emboding Presence at the Pop-up Globe Theatre in Auckland. Fifteenth International Conference on The Arts in Society, Galway, Ireland.
Byrnes, V.K. (2019). How to start a Creative (R)evolution. Empowering Women, Growing Artists, and Reclaiming the Real through Live Performance. Performing the Artefact: University of Otago, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Byrnes, V. K. (2018). Collaborative Creativity: Pedagogical Practice and Relational Innovation in Aotearoa/New Zealand Contemporary Dance Training. An Outlook on Future Dance Training Beijing Dance Academy: International President's Dance Forum, Beijing, China.
Byrnes, V. K. (2017). Creative 'response-ability': Teaching, directing, and practicing creativity in a contemporary world Keynote. Drama New Zealand Conference, Otago Settler's Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Byrnes, V. K. (2014). 'Shared Experiences': Influence, Tradition and the Legacy of Mike Alfreds in New Zealand Professional Theatre Practice. The Australasian Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies Association (ADSA) Conference, Wellington, New Zealand.
Byrnes, V. K., & McKie, D. (2012). 'Stand and Unfold Your Praxis': Reflections on connecting experiments to make theatre directing and leadership learning more dynamic. The Sixth Art of Management and Organisation Conference, University of York, United Kingdom.