In 1989 the then Health Department made funding available to all area health boards for the prevention of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Using theatre as an educational tool in health promotion was the brainchild of Viv Graham from the Otago Area Health Board’s Health Promotion Service. In late 1989 she discussed her ideas with people prominent in Dunedin’s professional theatre and with the help of the one-off Health Department grant, commissioned Karen Elliot to write and direct a safer sex programme for 16 to 18 year old secondary school students. This was written in association with Marc Metzger with input from a variety of public health professionals.

The Southland Area Health Board also joined the project and from mid – February to the May school vacation in 1990, The Say No or Joe Show toured 30 of the 43 secondary schools in Otago and Southland. Approximately 4,400 students participated in the programme and the evaluations were extremely positive from students, teachers and health professionals.

Following the programme’ success, Viv Graham and Karen Elliot investigated continuing theatre in health education in Otago/Southland and possibly further afield.

A planning process began which included a national survey of health educators in schools, area health boards and other health agencies for their views on theatre as an educative tool. The theatre in health education company, Brainstorm Productions, in New South Wales, Australia was also visited.

Evaluation of the information gathered from all these sources made it clear that theatre would be welcomed as a tool and could be complementary to comprehensive and long term health education within schools, supported by audio-visual and written material produced by health agencies. Priority programmes such as alcohol and other drug misuse, smoking prevention, nutrition – in fact any and all health related issues could all incorporate a theatre component. As a result of this, the Theatre in Health Education Trust (THETA) was formally established in November 1991.

The inaugural Trustees were Karen Elliot, Viv Graham, Pat Harrison (secondary school principal), Hilary Norris(actor/director/theatre teacher) and Dr Peter Strang (Otago University Student Health Service).

 

Programmes and Tours

1990
The Say No or Joe Show:
Tour: Otago and Southland
Funding: Otago and Southland Area Health Boards
Actors: Sima Urale, Sean Allen and Patrick Davies.
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot
Coordinator: Viv Graham.

 

1990/91
Karen Elliot employed on a short-term contract by the Otago Area Health Board to investigate the use of theatre in health education and the viability of setting up an autonomous trust to produce theatre-based programmes.

1992
In June, Karen Elliot obtained a youth worker salary from the Lottery Grants Board to direct and administer programmes for the Trust.

 

1993
Sex Matters: a two actor classroom programme based on The Say No or Joe Show
Tour: Otago and Southland
Funding: HealthCare Otago; QE2 Arts Council; Lottery Youth
Actors: Hilary Halba, (later Rachel More) and John Foreman
Writer/Director Karen Elliot
Coordinator Viv Graham

 

1994
Suckers: a smoking prevention programme aimed at 10-13 year olds, based on a game show format that involved participation from the audience.
Psst..!: promoting responsible alcohol use to senior secondary students.
Tour: Otago and Southland
Funding: Lottery Youth; HealthCare Otago; Southern Health; Invercargill Licensing Trust
Actors: Rachel France, John Foreman and Richard White (both programmes)
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot
Coordinator: Viv Graham

Sex Matters:
Tour: metropolitan Dunedin schools; also performed at the National STD Educators’ Conference in Wellington
Funding: HealthCare Otago
Actors: Rachel More and John Foreman
Director: Karen Elliot

 

1995
Crunch ‘n' Munch: a nutrition programme in a storyteller format for preschool and junior primary children.
Tour: rural and provincial Otago and selected Dunedin schools and Kindergartens
Funding: Healthcare Otago
Actor: Fran Kewene
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

Sexwhys: revised three actor version of sexual health programme
Tour: South Island excluding Nelson and Marlborough
Funding: Public Health Commission.
Actors: Rachel France, Fran Kewene and Richard Bullock
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot



 

1996
Sexwise: previously namedSexwhys
Tour: Northland; Auckland; Waikato; Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; Wellington
Funding: Regional Health Authorities. Replacing the Public Health Commission
Actors: Erina Daniels, Pip Hall and Justin Curry

 

1997
Psst..!
Tour: rural and provincial South Island schools; also Otago University Halls of Residence during Orientation
Funding: Lottery Grants Board; Dunedin City Council
Actors Gemma Mathieson, Andrew Jones and Gareth McMillan
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

Sexwise
Tour: Waikato; Taranaki; Bay of Plenty; Taupo; Rotorua and the Coromandel.
Funding: Midland Regional Health Authority
Actors: Sara Connor, Erina Daniels and Justin Curry
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

 

1998
Sexwise
Tour: Southern and Midland Regional Health Regions
Funding: Southern and Midland Regional Health Authorities
Actors: Sara Connor, Sable Samuel and Justin Curry
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

Psst..!
Tour: Central and Northern Regional Health Regions
Funding: Central and Northern Regional Health Authorities
Actors: Jessica Sutherland, Stephen Laing and Rhys Latton
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

 

1999
Sexwise
Tour: Midland and Southern regions
Funding: Midland and Southern RHAs
Actors: Sara Connor, Erina Daniels and Justin Curry
Writer/Director: Karen Elliot

Psst..!
Tour: Southern region
Funding: Southern RHA
Actors: Cath Colwill, Chris Horlock and Danny Still

Kickin’ Butt: revised fromSuckers
Tour: Gisborne; Hawkes Bay; Wairarapa; Manawatu; Wellington; Hutt Valley
Funding: Central RHA
Actors: Cath Colwill, Chris Horlock and Adrian Wagner
Writer/Director: Simon O’Connor

The Central RHA also funded THETA to research and develop a new programme on cannabis.

 

2000
Sexwise
Tour: Southern and Midland regions
Actors: Serena Cotton, Keri Hunter and Maaka Pohatu
Director: Hilary Halba

Kickin’ Butt
Tour: Southern region and Auckland.
Actors: Cath Colwill, Chris Horlock and Adrian Wagner.
Writer/Director: Simon O’Connor

Ripped: new commission
Tour: Gisborne; Hawke’s Bay; Wanganui; Wellington; Hutt Valley; the Wairarapa
Funding: Health Funding Authority – Wellington Office
Actors Serena Cotton, Karlos Drinkwater and Will Henley
Writers: Simon O’Connor; Rawiri Paratene
Writer/Director: Simon O’Connor.

 

2001
Ripped
Tour: Northland; Wanganui; Wellington; Porirua Basin; Hutt Valley; South Island, excluding the West Coast
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors Serena Cotton, Reihana Haronga and William Henley
Writer/Director Simon O’Connor

Kickin’ Butt
Tour: Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; Wanganui; Porirua Basin
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Wellington office
Actors: Cath Colwill, Chris Horlock and Adrian Wagner
Writer/Director Simon O’Connor

Sexwise
Tour Taranaki; Waikato; Coromandel; Rotorua; Taupo; West Coast; Christchurch
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Hamilton; Dunedin offices
Actors: Keri Hunter, Sara Georgie Johnston and Jamie McCaskill
Director: Hilary Halba


2002
Ripped
Tour: Auckland; North Shore; Rotorua; Taupo; Coromandel; part Waikato; Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; West Coast; Nelson; Marlborough; metropolitan Christchurch
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Hamilton; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors: Serena Cotton, Reihana Haronga and David Oxenbridge (replaced by Jamie McGregor)
Writer/Director Simon O’Connor

Psst..!
Tour: North Shore; Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; Wanganui; Wairarapa; Otago
Funding Auckland; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors Tui Divers, Karlos Drinkwater and Cameron Smith
Writer/Director Richard Huber

Sexwise
Tour Auckland; Wellington; Porirua Basin; Hutt Valley
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Wellington offices
Actors: Keri Hunter, Sara Georgie Johnston and Cooper Amai
Director: Hilary Halba

 

2003
Psst..!
Tour: Whanganui; Manawatu; Kapiti Coast; Southland; South Canterbury; Mid-Canterbury
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors: Serena Cotton, Cooper Amai and Amalia Calder
Director: Richard Huber

Ripped
Tour: Auckland; North Shore; Taranaki; part Waikato; Bay of Plenty; Dunedin city; North Otago
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Hamilton; Dunedin offices
Actors: Mark Neilson, Anya Tate-Manning, Matarahi Skipper
Writer/Director: Simon O’Connor

 

2004
Kickin’ Butt
Tour: Northland; part Auckland; Thames; Paeroa; part Coromandel; Wellington; Porirua; Hutt Valley; Wairarapa; South Otago; Central Otago; West Coast
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Hamilton; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors: Anatoa Tekira, Matarahi Skipper, Bengy Barsanti
Writer/Director: Simon O’Connor

Psst..!
Tour: Rotorua; Taupo; North Waikato; Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; Nelson; Marlborough; part Christchurch
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Hamilton; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors: Jessie Allen, Kristin O’Halloran, Paul Sullivan
Director: Richard Huber

 

2005
Sexwise
Tours (2): Auckland; North Shore; Whangarei; Taranaki; Hamilton City; Bay of Plenty; Rotorua; Wanganui; Palmerston North City; Porirua; Hutt Valley; Levin; Foxton; Masterton; Tairawhiti; Hawkes Bay; Southland; Dunedin City; North Otago; West Coast; Mid- Canterbury; South Canterbury; metropolitan Christchurch
Funding: Health Funding Authority - Auckland; Hamilton; Wellington; Dunedin offices
Actors: Julia Truscott; Siale Tunoka and Jared Culling & Alannah Crowley; Richard Dey and Bengy Barsanti
Directors: Sara Georgie Johnston and Gareth McMillan (trainee directors) mentored by Karen Elliot and Hilary Halba

 

2006
Sexwise
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Jared Culling, Alannah Crowley, Richard Dey
Director: Gareth McMillan

 

2007
Crunch and Munch
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Te Mihinga Komene,
Director: Karen Elliot

The Best Thing
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Sara Geogie Johnston, Siale Tunoka
Director: Karen Elliot

 

2008
Crunch and Munch
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Te Mihinga Komene,
Director: Karen Elliot

The Best Thing
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Sara Geogie Johnston, Siale Tunoka
Director: Karen Elliot

 

2009
Crunch and Munch
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Te Mihinga Komene,
Director: Karen Elliot

The Best Thing
Tour:
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Sara Geogie Johnston, Siale Tunoka
Director: Karen Elliot

 

2010
Sexwise
Tour: South Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Hollie Sutton, Jack Matthews, George Harach
Director: Karen Elliot

 

2011
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Jess Benson, Matthew Boyadjian, Jamie MacKenzie, Mallarie Hart, Josiah Samuel, Shaun Martin
Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2012
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health
Actors: Shaun Martin, Ngahiriwa Rauhina, Kelly Hocking, Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Jayde Braxton, Whakaani Rongonui, Joshua Goodare, Adam Koveskali, Hadley Taylor
Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2013
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health,
Actors: Ngahiriwa Rauhina, Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Jayde Braxton, Adam Koveskali, Hadley Taylor, Heidi Geissler, Lauren Marshall, Bob Savea
Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2014
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health; Hawkes Bay DHB/PHO
Actors: Ngahiriwa Rauhina, Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Jayde Braxton, Adam Koveskali, Hadley Taylor, Heidi Geissler, Saufoi Fa'avale, Jocelyn Fa'alavelave,
Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2015
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: PHG - National Health Board, Ministry of Health; Hawkes Bay DHB/PHO
Actors:Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Jayde Braxton, Adam Koveskali, Hadley Taylor, Heidi Geissler, Saufoi Fa'avale, Jocelyn Fa'alavelave,
Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2016
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: Ministry of Health
Actors: Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Bob Savea, Nell Guy, Luke Agnew, Josiah Samuel, Natasha Richards, Maile Finau, Adam Koveskali

Writer/Director: Evelyn Mann

 

2017
Sexwise
Tour: National, with a focus on the North Island
Funding: Ministry of Health
Actors:Lemau Jasmine Iuliano, Saufoi Fa'avale, Kasiano Mita, Nell Guy, Luke Agnew, Josiah Samuel, Natasha Richards, Brianna Smith 
Writer/Director: Gareth McMillan