Angie Farrow: Civic Award winner 2019

Published on 13 November 2019

Photo of 2020 Civic Award winner Angie Farrow

A highly respected teacher, theatre director and producer, playwright and author, Professor Angie Farrow has made a huge contribution to Palmerston North’s profile and reputation as a centre for performance arts.

Recently retired as a Professor in Theatre from Massey University, where she spent 24 years as an educator and researcher, Angie has contributed massively to the Massey creative performance curriculum, while having a profound and transformational effect on her students.

Since arriving at Massey in 1995, Angie has been presented with a Massey Lecturer of the Year Award, three Massey teaching excellence awards, and a national tertiary teaching excellence award.

She has also attracted outstanding contribution awards for her services to students, and to the performing arts, is recognised as a ‘Creative Giant’ of Palmerston North, and was a finalist in the 2017 NZ Women of Influence Awards.

At this year’s Regional Theatre Awards celebrations in February, Angie was accorded a Lifetime Achievement Award for her creative mana. In accepting it, she said she would forever be indebted to Palmerston North for its local theatre community.

An author as well as a dramatist, Angie has over 20 national and international awards for playwriting, which in 2018 included the prestigious Adam NZ Best Play by a Female Playwright Award for Before The Birds, which was set in Palmerston North.

She has five UK awards for her fiction, has published numerous scripts and collections for stage and radio, as well as a number of short stories.

Angie is also recognised for her workshop facilitation and consultancy work around New Zealand and in the UK and has been keynote speaker at numerous national conferences.

However, it is for championing a vibrant city arts community above and beyond the scope of her academic role, that Angie is receiving this Civic Honour.

Described as an outstanding, passionate and vocal arts ambassador, Angie has been a dynamic and eloquent force behind the evolution of the city’s thriving arts scene. Praised for her generosity of spirit and commitment to the local community, Angie has applied her professional and artistic standing, coupled with intelligence, vision, creativity, boundless enthusiasm and energy, to advocate for the arts not only at Massey but across the region, and beyond.

As she says: “I saw a strong need for Massey to have an arts culture. The arts are a way for encouraging new kinds of discourse and for challenging our thinking.”

As well as chairing the Manawatū Arts Committee from 2001-18, in 2003 Angie established a revamped Summer Shakespeare, moving the alfresco production off-campus and into Victoria Esplanade with great success. Seeing this as an opportunity to help build a relationship between town and gown, while giving community actors, musicians and stage crew a professional level production experience, Angie has been executive Summer Shakespeare producer for 17 straight annual shows.

In 2004, after two years of negotiations, Angie was able to instigate the Massey University Visiting Artist scheme, which also incorporated her vision for Summer Shakespeare.

A partnership between Massey, Palmerston North City and Square Edge Community Arts, the scheme hosts three artists a year who represent a range of creative endeavour including theatre, literature, choreography, filmmaking, digital, visual arts and multimedia. This exposes students and the wider community to practitioners of national and international calibre, raising local awareness about creative options and potential, while incrementally lifting artistic standards.

To further encourage and cultivate emerging artists, writers, actors, directors and designers, Angie established Massey’s Festival of New Arts. The biennial event offered the incentive for the production of experimental works that included original short plays, poetry, multimedia and film.

Its legacy can be seen in Massey University drama productions over the past couple of years, where original student work of increasing confidence and sophistication is now being written and performed.

Angie’s community plays Before the Birds in 2009, The River in 2011, and 2018’s award-winning Fringe Festival promenade production of Firing Line for which she was the dramaturg, have set a standard for plays based around local narratives, themes and identity.

Angie is also the founder and mentor of Massey’s open-to-all Arts on Wednesday performances, and the Student City Arts and Cultural Awards.

Along with promoting the idea that the arts provide a valuable avenue for university research, Angie has endowed her adopted city with a remarkable arts legacy.