About us


Kia ora and welcome to Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. We are a prestigious tertiary training organisation based in Wellington. For over half a century we have trained the best performers, designers and craftspeople from New Zealand and from around the world.

Our Kaupapa

‍From our whare standing on whenua in Te Whanganui-a-Tara we nurture talented students in performance arts through innovative, co-creative and recognised learning programmes - to realise their creative potential and navigate sustainable paths forward.


Hei whakanui i ō tātou ao: Reveal and connect Aotearoa story-makers.

Here the focus is on how we might best work with and develop students in ways that enhance their ability, individually and with others, to have positive impacts in the worlds they will go on to lead and activate.

Our Values

Manaakitanga: We work together in ways that enhance each other’s mana. We encourage and support one another and ourselves to reach our full potential.

Rangatiratanga: We recognise that everyone has potential to be leaders and that their training helps them develop and hone these skills.

Mātauranga: We value knowledge acquisition and transmission, particularly through tuākana tēina.

Whakawhanaungatanga: We foster a whānau community that holds high expectations around respect and positive working relationships within the kura, and with those externally.


Toi Whakaari is managed on a day to day basis by three co-leaders operating collectively as Tira Mana Kōkiri. The leadership rōpū consists of the dual role of Tumuaki (Director) and Poutūhono (Engagement-focused), the Poukōkiri Mātauranga (Academic-focused), and the Pouhāpai Ahurea (People-focused).

Our current Tira Mana Kōkiri members:

Tanea Heke

Tumuaki & poutūhono

Sean Coyle

poukōkiri mātauranga

Hinauri Mead

pouhāpai ahurea

The Tumuaki role and the operations of the school is overseen by a Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of volunteers who are passionate about seeing the next generation of performing arts practitioners succeeding in their careers.

The current Board and committee members are:

E ngā mana, e ngā reo,
e ngā waka, e ngā hau e whā. Nau mai, haere mai,
ki tō mātou nei kura.

Tim Walker


Roman Rogers

Deputy Chair

Angus Evison


Jane von Dadelszen

Helen Pearse-Otene

Katherine Baxter

Simon Bennett

Charmaine Ngarimu

Anapela Polataivao

Te Roopū Whakahaere o Toi Whakaari
(Māori advisory Board)

Briar Grace-Smith
Tānemahuta Gray
Ross Himona
Kahu Hotere
Hone Hurihanganui
Mikaere Paki
Helen Pearse-Otene
Rangimoana Taylor
Tanea Heke
Tim Walker

Academic Board

Jane von Dadelszen
Simon Bennett
Tanea Heke
Kaarin Slevin
Dr. Sean Coyle
Craig Atkins
Prof. David O’Donnell
Dr. Suzanne Little

People, Plant and Risk Committee

Angus Evison
Roman Rogers
Tanea Heke
Tamara Aluwihare
Logan Lockyer

Engagement Committee

Katherine Baxter
Helen Pearse-Otene
Tanea Heke
Charmaine Ngarimu
Tim Walker

Toi Whakaari Story

Toi Whakaari has been nurturing performers and arts practitioners for over 50 years.

The chances of students being employed after graduating at Toi Whakaari is high, partly because New Zealand has a busy TV and film industry with international connections, but also because students leave Toi Whakaari equipped with considerable knowledge, skills and experience to thrive in New Zealand’s performing arts scene.

Toi Whakaari has outstanding tutors and guest tutors, who are experienced practitioners themselves, who can successfully harness the amazing raw talent of their students. Studying at Toi Whakaari has become an essential step for students wishing to pursue a career in the performing arts, and the connection with the school does not end at graduation. The learning opportunities continue well after, and the industry connections students make while studying with us will remain important for the student’s entire career. This is a major difference between Toi Whakaari and other drama schools, both in New Zealand and around the world.

During this time the school has gained a reputation for producing graduates who perform brilliantly in their respective disciplines and who create their own work. Our graduates occupy key roles in all areas of our creative industries and over the last fifty years they have greatly influenced the performing arts in Aotearoa.

During the next 50 years, Toi Whakaari will continue to be a major voice in the New Zealand performing arts industry as we train students and give them the skills to meet the current industry demands. In addition, we give students transferable skills that enable them to easily adapt to this country’s fast-changing arts scene.

Students want to study at Toi Whakaari because they know they will be in a supportive environment, as well as being part of a highly regarded organisation with an international reputation.