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A night with New Zealander of the year

A life in theatre, music and film will be part of New Zealander of the Year Jennifer Ward-Lealand's talk in Gisborne next week. Organised by the Gisborne branch of international organisation, Business and Professional Women, the high energy performer's talk is open to the public.

One of Ms Ward-Lealand's first TV performances was as a 10-year-old in the 1972 New Zealand film, Gone Up North For While. The film is said to have effected social change by stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers.

From the kitchen sink drama about a pregnant young woman who goes against the tide of advice from her family and welfare authorities and keeps her baby, to working with actors and directors on performing scenes that involve nudity, simulated sex, and intimacy, Ms Ward-Lealand's career has covered a lot of ground.

Her first ongoing television role was in the TV soap opera Close to Home then after leaving school she spent a year touring New Zealand with a community theatre group in which she clowned and performed the works of Anton Chekhov.

Ms Ward-Lealand recently returned to performing Chekhov in an Auckland Theatre Company online production of the Russian playwright's comedy, The Seagull, in which the actors performed in their respective bubbles.

In the production, Chekhov's characters congregate over Zoom and search for meaning in their lives while battling love, jealousy, dissatisfaction and malfunctioning video calls.

In the 1980s Ms Ward-Lealand trained at Auckland's Theatre Corporate. By the 1990s she had starred to international acclaim in the New Zealand film Desperate Remedies, toured with Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan in music /theatre group The Front Lawn, and was a core cast member of the Australian comedy sketch show Full Frontal. In more recent years she has directed theatre, especially musicals and, as a singer, has presented her own shows, Falling in Love Again and The Look of Love, Evocative/Provocative, at festivals and venues in New Zealand and offshore.

Most recently she starred in the Silo Theatre's hit production Brel, to five-star reviews.

Along with training as a stage and screen intimacy coordinator, Ms Ward-Lealand has dedicated herself to learning te reo Maori and will cover that journey as well in her talk here.

She has also been an advocate for improving actors' working conditions and pay.

Described as elegant but down-to-earth, Ms Ward-Lealand is in demand as an MC. She hosted the then Montana Book Awards three times as well as a range of events held by Auckland convention centre The Edge.

■ New Zealander of the Year Jennifer Ward-Lealand will be guest speaker at the Gisborne Business and Professional Women event at the Lawson Field Theatre on Tuesday July 7. Doors open at 5.30pm and the talk begins at 6pm.

Tickets are $20 for members, non-members $35, and are available from The Gisborne Herald or gisbornebpw@hotmail.com

CLOSE TO HOME: Actor/director/intimacy coordinator and New Zealander of the Year, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, has come a long way since her television role in the TV soap opera Close to Home, and will be in Gisborne for a talk next week. File picture