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Eleanor Bishop
Photo by Wellington Girls' College

Eleanor Bishop (2002-2003)

Wellington Girls' College —

Cultural Hall of Fame 2022

Back in 2007, Wellington Girls College was invited by Enterprise New Zealand to establish an Alumna Hall of Fame. The intention, originally was to include high profile women in the world of business; but because so many of our former students excelled in other areas as well, it soon became clear that additional Halls would be needed to appropriately recognize their achievements.

The Arts and Cultural Hall of Fame was created to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand's cultural life. It already includes, among others - the novelist Jenny Patrick, artist Vivian Lynn, dancer and film maker Shona McCullough and the art patron, Dame Jenny Gibs. We are delighted that - as of today, another of our gifted alumna will be joining them.

Eleanor Bishop has been described as “one of New Zealand’s most daring, intelligent and political directors”. She attended Wellington Girls’ College from 2002 to 2003 .

During her time at WGC she was active in the Drama community, on the cultural committee, a school prefect and an accomplished debater. As a Year 13, Eleanor was selected to represent Wellington in the NZ schools debating championships. From this event, she was chosen as the team captain for the NZ Secondary Schools’ debating team in Peru. Over 70 teams from around the world compete at this event, and in 2003 NZ came 14th equal and Eleanor was named as Best Speaker of the tournament.

Former teachers have described her as “Funny”, “Highly intelligent”, “Cheerful” and noted that “her love for learning made her a joy to teach.” Several of the awards being presented to students here today were also awarded to Eleanor in her time at WGC.

After completing Year 13, Eleanor went on to study and achieve a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Theatre at Victoria University.

Post graduating Eleanor directed a number of productions at Bats, Circa and Downstage in Wellington as well as founding her own company, The Playground Collective. The company’s productions have won numerous Chapman Tripp awards, including those specifically for Eleanor’s directing with her work being described as “theatrically ingenius”, and “exquisite”.

In 2013 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States as a John Wells Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. There she completed a Master of Fine Arts in directing.

One of her productions during this time, ‘Jane Doe’, a piece about rape culture, became sucessful and toured through multiple campuses in the United States, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and all through Australia and New Zealand. Raising awareness and educating audiences on these issues is a trademark of Eleanor’s work and is seen in many of her other shows including “Yes, Yes, Yes”. This show co-created and directed by Eleanor is about consent. It is designed specifically for young people and provides a platform for us to engage in these sometimes difficult conversations. Some of us at WGC have been lucky enough to see this show in the last 2 years and would absolutely love to see this work taken to all schools around Aotearoa.

From 2016-2019 Eleanor worked as an associate director for the New York multimedia company “The Builder’s Association led by Marianne Weems. She is also an alumna of the Académie du Festival d'Aix’s Women Opera Makers Workshop with Katie Mitchell, the European Commission Citizen Artist Incubator and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab.

Come 2020, as we are aware, the Covid lockdowns changed our lives and the live theatre and events industry was one of the hardest hit. The impact of this has been ongoing and will be for some time. We know it has meant postponements and cancellations for Eleanor, including this year’s NZ Arts Festival debut of Adam award winning play “Aliens and Anorexia”. There have been new opportunities though and Eleanor has been at the forefront of some of these. During the Level 4 lockdown, alongside others, she adapted and directed a full length version of Chekov’s “The Seagull”, designed to be performed electronically. This achievement the first of its kind in NZ.

In 2021 Wellington Girls’ were also very fortunate to get Creatives in Schools funding which allowed us to have Eleanor as the director of our production “An Enemy of the People”. Eleanor workshopped, adapted and rehearsed the play with us over a term, allowing students to be part of her vision for the story and providing a platform for us to speak to issues of importance. It was epic!

Eleanor is also the Friedlander Foundation Associate Artist for NZ Opera, working as the assistant director on the Marriage of Figaro in 2021 and most recently as the director of The Strangest of Angels, a debut opera exploring the life of Janet Frame in the Seacliff Mental hospital. The reviews for this work have been incredible and we hope it will come to Wellington at some stage.

Eleanor is one of NZ’s most exciting and provocative theatre makers, and, as of November, she begins her journey as a film maker in Jane Campion’s intensive “A Wave in the Ocean”, funded by Netflix. In recognition of all she has achieved and what is to come, it is an honour and a privilege to induct Eleanor Bishop into the Wellington Girls’ College Arts and Cultural Hall of Fame this afternoon. We would now like to invite Eleanor to say a few words. 

If you know of any old girl who could be considered for inclusion any of our Halls of Fame, please contact Julia Davidson by writing c/- the school or send an email to wgc@wgc.school.nz