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  • 1 June 2023
  • Blog

People and Place: Vivien and Jonathan, ASB Waterfront Theatre

People and Place: Vivien and Jonathan, ASB Waterfront Theatre hero image

Meet Vivien Sutherland Bridgwater and Jonathan Bielski, from the ASB Waterfront Theatre. 

ASB Theatre 4

Since Billy Elliott had audiences standing in ovation at its opening show in 2016, the ASB Waterfront Theatre has been uplifting lives by bringing the magic of modern theatre to the Wynyard Quarter. Executive director Jonathan Bielski lives in an apartment nearby and that he can walk to work at this local landmark is one of many ways in which he appreciates his work/life in Auckland’s arts scene.

“Wynyard Quarter is a place to live, work and play. Its design, as an ‘innovation precinct’, leans on the concept of play with the amenities it has here, at the centre of which is this major cultural asset – the ASB Waterfront Theatre.”

Jonathan lists events of national significance and international touring performances that enhance lives and the area, as well as this being the proud home of Auckland Theatre Company. “This theatre was created through the will and the generosity of the local community. So many people put their shoulders to the wheel, alongside ASB and Auckland Council, to make this happen and create all the opportunities this place now offers our communities.”

Chair of ATC, Vivien Sutherland Bridgwater MNZM, Ngati Whatua, says, “The ASB Waterfront Theatre is a statement that performing arts belongs. And it belongs, boldly, in one of the country’s premier districts. It’s not hidden away. That, even when the theatre is closed, it has a bright presence is so symbolic. And it’s much more than a building. This place is itself a work of art.”

One of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest, as it happens. The illuminated internal walls of the building are an enormous, living artwork, commissioned by the Edmiston Trust for Auckland Theatre Company ahead of the theatre’s opening. ‘Light Matrix’ is the 2016 work by visual artist Leo Villareal that contains over 8200 LED lights and spans three floors of the building.

ASB Theatre 3
ASB Theatre 2

Vivien explains how the constantly changing light sculpture is set to an algorithm that ensures it never produces the same pattern of light twice. The glass external walls of the theatre allow its colour and form to be admired day and night by those outside, providing a beacon of light and hope, which proved a particularly powerful symbol during the dark days of Covid lockdowns, she says.

“It’s always on. It’s here to dazzle Aucklanders – all the time. It shows the theatre is alive, and this special part of Tāmaki Makaurau is alive. It’s a powerful reminder that life goes on; that light continues to shine.”

Creating connection and elevating lives through shared experience has been the cornerstone of theatre since its earliest expressions. Carrying this torch forward from the distant past, to the present and into a brave future is an honour both Vivien and Jonathan recognise and relish in their roles at Auckland’s mesmerising waterfront theatre.