George Parker is a long-time member of Free Theatre Christchurch (est. 1979), and the manager for Te Puna Toi (Performance Research Project, est. 2001) at the University of Canterbury (Theatre and Film Studies Department). In 2008 he completed a PhD in Theatre and Film Studies, which explored solo performance in New Zealand and its unique contribution to community-building and the search for a distinctive New Zealand identity – a hybrid form with an ethos more grounded in the marae or community hall than the large Theatre Royals that dream of some other place.
In April 2011, he was voted into Arts Voice Christchurch, after a series of meetings initiated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Creative New Zealand that aimed to advocate for the arts in the new Christchurch. He put forward the Arts Circus project as a wellspring for a wider River of Arts to help rejuvenate the cultural, social and economic life of the city. Both practically and socially, these projects are designed to engage with the experimental potential of the transitional city, allowing ongoing and diverse community input into the emergence of a new sense of identity, place and community.
With this in mind, Te Puna Toi is also developing a project called ‘Transitional City’ that will feed into and learn from the many transitional projects staff and students of Theatre and Film Studies are involved in: Gap Filler, Life in Vacant Spaces, Greening the Rubble, Arts Circus, River of Arts and the Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA).
His perspective regarding the arts is informed by his ongoing work with Free Theatre Christchurch. After losing its theatre and working spaces in the February 22 earthquake, the company has produced a string of celebrated new works in a variety of transitional spaces including The Earthquake in Chile, Hereafter and I Sing the Body Electric. Currently the company is developing a project based around Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which would see participants moving around and within the city to be entertained by an array of performance stations exploring Christchurch, past, present and future.