I had this moment last week in rehearsals, where I felt this overwhelming appreciation towards Hagley, it’s staff, and it’s unique structure that allowed me to take my first few steps on the journey I am living now.
In February 2007, I was among some of the many new enrolments at Hagley Community College. Blonde. Terrified; and one of the most socially awkward people in attendance.
I had come from a home-school background, and thought of high school as a place to extend myself artistically and academically, but missed the part about having to socialise. People were scary. My fellow unruly pupils talked during class. The staff had this weird rule that you had to put your hand up if you needed to go to the bathroom, and we didn’t get to choose what subjects we enrolled in for the first year.
My aspiration to become a professional dancer was taken to heart by Suzanne Waters, who kindly organised for me to do part-time dance company work under the phenomenal Sheryl Robinson. This arrangement allowed me to miss out on most of my P.E. classes- my apologies to Trudi Squire, I’m sure I was the bane of her year 9SQ & 10SQ classes.
Year 10 was the year the college allowed a selection of four module classes, as well as the core academic subjects. When enrolling, I had accidentally ticked the ‘Food Technology’ box, and it wasn’t until my third class I had the guts to approach the staff. I wanted to change to Drama. Suzanne Waters, yet again, came to the rescue, and facilitated the changeover for me. So, after an indecisive time in my junior college, I had been allowed to realise what I wanted to be doing; Arts subjects.
In my NCEA years, alongside the necessary academic courses, I was your stereotypical performing arts persona – taking all the ‘dropkick’ subjects – dance, drama, art, photography, film, and music, among others. I loved them, and became a lot more settled on where I was going. Logistics suggested I should take a long-term approach to my university study and do ‘fun’ subjects on the side- but unwise Amber decided to follow what she burned to do instead.
After 5 years at Hagley, I was accepted into the Hagley theatre company, which extended my skills and knowledge of performance craft – backstage and onstage – and opened up the opportunity to audition for Toi Whakaari and Unitec’s acting programmes. I was thrilled to be accepted into the latter, and in 2013 made the heist up to JAFA land to begin my journey as a performing artist.
I’m not going to lie; living in a new city can be extremely hard. Studying, being away from family in a place that is HUGE and unfamiliar was overwhelming sometimes. On the other side of the three years though, I can say it was completely worth it.
In our final year at Unitec, we worked on Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra. Shortly after the production, it was announced that a Pop-Up Globe would be built in Auckland. Any Shakespeare lovers will know this is a huge opportunity to New Zealander’s. The cast I worked with immediately decided that Antony & Cleopatra would be our debut show after drama school, and after much toing and froing of emails to the Pop-Up Globe management, this play is set to hit the stage from the 28th March until the 9th April.
To end this, I would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff that supported me during my time at Hagley. Thank you for understanding where I wanted to go, and facilitating the possibilities you did.