John Downie has been a visiting writer at the Michael King Writers’ Centre twice, first in 2013 and again in 2014. In 2014 he worked on a fiction project, a series of inter-linked stories called Mr Brillo.
John has had a long professional career as a creative artist. As a theatre-maker, he works as writer, dramaturg, and director, chiefly motivated by aesthetic experimentation, social change, and pedagogy. In the UK, his own work includes productions for Traverse Theatre, Kneehigh Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Bristol Old Vic, amongst others. He has recently retired after more than twenty years as a full-time lecturer in theatre and film at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.
In his early career, he worked as a TV director with Granada TV Manchester/London, and as an Associate Director at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh. He moved into teaching: as visiting Professor of Theatre at California State University, Humboldt, USA, for two years; as a tutor in creative practices for the Open University, UK, for ten years; in residential arts programmes such as the Arvon Foundation; as Cilcennin Fellow at Bristol University Department of Theatre and Film; and following emigration to New Zealand in 1990, as Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Film at Victoria University, Wellington, where he also from time to time headed the Theatre Programme.
He has held a number of arts residencies in the UK. He co-founded and was director of the Playwrights Company, Bristol, for several years, and during the 1980s, he was Regional Dramaturg for SW England, covering four large repertory theatres, and several touring companies. He served on a number of Arts Council of Great Britain advisory panels.
As a scriptwriter, his professional theatre work of more than 30 productions includes productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Bristol Old Vic, Traverse Theatre, Pocket Theatre Cumbria, Colway Theatre Trust, Solent Peoples Theatre, Kneehigh Theatre, etc; as well as scripts for young audiences, multimedia installations, and so on. He has written film and TV scripts, published a collection of short fictions Elementary Particles (Loxwood Stoneleigh 1987), and with The Celestial Railroad (1989), created a twenty-five mile long prose work along a public cycleway in Northern England, commissioned by SusTrans.
In Wellington, New Zealand, since 1990, he has written several plays produced by National Radio and a wide range of critical and academic articles on theatre and film, he has been Director of a programme of performance research, FACTORY, with the aim of bringing professional artists of different disciplines together to explore contemporary issues in performance, eg: Vogel Parts 1-7; Innocence of Light. His teaching and research concerns are with contemporary performance theory and practice, particularly as they relate to disciplinary boundaries and evolving technologies. He has recently completed a number of new performance scripts, including The Death of Edgar Allan Poe, WindFarm, and Darwin’s Daughters, as well as The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, a new opera first produced at the New Zealand International Festival in 2008.
He retired from full-time university teaching in 2012, while continuing to develop new creative work and critical thinking in music-, dance-, and multimedia theatre, as part of his general artistic practice.