David Geary is a playwright and fiction writer. Geary’s plays have been widely performed and he has received several awards for his work. He has had poems published, and a full collection of his short stories appeared in 2003. His plays are described as being ‘characterised by their physicality, their mordant humour and their critique of entrenched Kiwi mythologies’. David Geary was the Victoria University Creative New Zealand writer-in-residence in 2008.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Geary, David (1963– ), is a playwright and fiction writer. Born in Feilding and educated at Palmerston North BHS and Victoria University, he began a law degree before turning to Arts. After completing the creative writing paper at Victoria, and while enrolled at the Te Kura Toi Whakaari/The New Zealand Drama School, he submitted ‘Kandy Cigarettes’ to the 1988 New Zealand Playwrights’ Workshop, under the pseudonym of Kurt Davidson. Parts of this script then became a series of revue sketches entitled ‘Gothic But Staunch’ and ‘Dry, White and Friendly’.
His first full-length play was ‘Pack of Girls’ (Downstage, 1991), a comedy in which a rugby widow forms a women’s rugby team. This was followed by Lovelock’s Dream Run, first seen at the Australia and New Zealand Playwrights’ Conference in Canberra in 1990, opening at The Watershed (Auckland Theatre Company) in 1993 and published by Victoria University Press in 1993. Drawing on his experience of boarding school, Geary gives a highly imaginative and empathetic account of what life might have been like for Lovelock (the future runner) as a boarding student in Timaru, and then later in Berlin at Hitler’s Olympics.
His next full-length play was ‘The Learner’s Stand’ (Circa, 1995), about the experiences of a student who joins a rather atypical shearing gang for the summer. ‘The King of Stains’, a short play about a dry cleaner with a fish fetish, followed (Bats, 1996). With Mick Rose and Tim Spite, he co-authored ‘Backstage with the Quigleys’ (Bats, 1992) and ‘The Rabbiter’s Daughter’ (Bats, 1994), two one-act plays which satirise, respectively, the theatrical and the literary worlds. He also collaborated with Theatre at Large to create ‘Manawa Taua/Savage Hearts’ (Watershed, 1994) and with a group of actors to create ‘Ruapehu’, one half of a double bill with Fiona Samuel’s ‘Untitled’; these two plays appeared under the title ‘One Flesh’ at Downstage, 1996.
Geary’s plays are characterised by their physicality, their mordant humour and their critique of entrenched Kiwi mythologies. He has written for television (The Smell of Money – a documentary, Jackson’s Wharf and Mercy Peak – drama series) and film (Baggage – a short film). He was awarded the Dominion Sunday Times Bruce Mason Playwrights’ Award in 1991 and in 1994 won the Adam Foundation Playwrights’ Award for ‘The Learner’s Stand’.
Geary's short stories have appeared in journals including the NZ Listenerand in the anthology The Picnic Virgin (1999).
In 1991, he received the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award.
A Man of the People (2003) is a blackly comic collection of connected short stories firmly grounded in New Zealand's country towns and suburbs.
In 2002, David Geary moved to Canada, where he has written a series of short plays - Menu Turistico, A Man Walks Into A Bar …, and Oedipus Butchers the Classics for the Walking Fish Festival of Vancouver. These plays have also had successful seasons in New Zealand.
He’s continued to maintain strong ties with New Zealand theatre, with A Shaggy Dog Story (2005), The Underarm (2006) and a revival of The Farm (2007) all having productions at Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North. In 2007, Penumbra, a piece originally co-devised by Geary as the Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School graduation was remounted for the Auckland International Arts Festival.
Being of Māori descent (Ngā Mahanga, Taranaki), Geary has forged links with aboriginal artists in Canada, and has been teaching story telling and script writing with First Nation writers.
An occasional poet, David Geary’s 'A conversation with Thomas Hardy in St James cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba' can be found in the online magazine Turbine 06.
David Geary was the 2008 recipient of the Victoria University Creative New Zealand writer-in-residence programme.
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Updated August 2022.