Auckland couple Roy Ward and Chargn Keenan are a busy pair: they're both working on Victor Rodger play At The Wake and have also opened a new bookstore in Kâ€™ Rdâ€™s beloved St Kevinâ€™s Arcade. GayNZ.com caught up with them at The Green Dolphin.
Roy Ward is well-known as an actor, writer/editor and director, with the brilliant GayNZ.com favourites Black Faggot and Resident Alien among his most recent theatre offerings. Heâ€™s now directing At The Wake, which opens this week. It was written by Victor Rodger, who of course also penned Black Faggot.
Itâ€™s the fourth time Ward has worked on one of Victor Rodgerâ€™s plays. He says his work is passionate, fearless, funny and "quite angry sometimes": â€śThereâ€™s a beating pulse in it all the time that comes from his experience of life.â€ť
At The Wake features Wentworthâ€™s Robbie Magasiva, along with Lisa Harrow from Step Dave and rising talent Taofia Pelesasa.
The play explores the conflicting issues of sexuality and religion. Ward says Rodger based it upon what might happen if he was in the same room as his Palagi grandmother and Samoan father â€“ but it's complete fiction beyond that premise.
Harrow plays an ageing potty-mouthed actress, whose daughter has died. The first half is the funeral, which Magasivaâ€™s character, the long-estranged Samoan and Christian father of her gay grandson, turns up to. The second half of the play is set at the wake and involves a bottle of whisky.
â€śFunerals and weddings are always good catalysts secrets and lies to come tumbling out, arenâ€™t they?â€ť says Ward, who hopes people find At The Wake funny, and that it also surprises them. His partner, the playâ€™s associate producer Chargn Keenan, hopes it prompts family members to ask â€śthat awkward questionâ€ť come Christmastime.
Itâ€™s not the only shared project for the couple, who have been together for nearly seven years. They have just opened a second-hand bookstore in St Kevinâ€™s Arcade.
Wardâ€™s simple answer as to "why a bookstore", is that heâ€™s always liked books. â€śI worked in a second-hand bookshop in London many years ago when I was doing my OE, on Charing Cross Road, and I just really enjoyed that.â€ť
He was also drawn in by the idea books are going out of fashion, and e-books are becoming the way of the future. He doesnâ€™t believe books are dying. â€śBut also, all the books that are in the world now have got to go somewhere. I believe enough people still value them in two ways â€“ for reading and as objects. People love the history that comes with them."
The Green Dolphin is also an indulgence. â€śIâ€™ve always had in the back of my mind that it would be a lovely thing to do. I know a lot of people think the same, wouldnâ€™t it be great to run a little second-hand bookshop, and no one pursues the reality of it. Quite wisely probably.â€ť
The location right in the heart of Kâ€™ Rd, St Kevinâ€™s Arcade, held great appeal. â€śI wouldnâ€™t have done this anywhere else in Auckland,â€ť Ward says. He explains he has plans to turn the mezzanine floor into a work space â€“ so the indulgence can also pay for an office, or a "shofficeâ€ť as he proclaims with a smile, as in â€śa shop with an office attached.â€ť
The Green Dolphin is named after a classic old book and movie set in 19th Century New Zealand. The store is tiny but has an eclectic range, including a small gay menâ€™s section the couple would like to grow â€“ if anyone has books they would like to sell them.
The only things The Green Dolphin doesnâ€™t stock are sports books (as Ward believes sport takes up enough of New Zealandâ€™s cultural space) and romance novels (aside from, as he laughingly reveals, a couple of New Zealand romance novelists Wardâ€™s mother used to read).
The Green Dolphin is open for business and has already had some rather well-known visitors, including Victor Rodger, writer Witi Ihimaera and actress Alison Quigan:
Also among the store's
browsers have been people looking for Christmas presents, an idea Ward and
Keenan are fond of â€¦ because, well, you canâ€™t exactly wrap an e-book, can you?