Hear Our Voices: An Interview with Maddie Brooks Gillespie

22 August 2018

A parcel from her Grandfather set 15 year old Maddie Brooks Gillespie on a path to embracing Shakespeare and the arts. Once she read the gifted copy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, she was smitten and knew she wanted to get involved in the theatrical world.

Maddie Gillespie - Recent

Maddie Brooks Gillespie

“My mum and I got in touch with Dawn Sanders, Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand’s (SGCNZ) CEO, about what might be happening in Wellington. She responded by sending us two free tickets to the annual SGCNZ Wellington Regional University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival (UOSWSF). I was hooked!” says Maddie.

SGCNZ was founded in 1991 and aims to enhance life skills through Shakespeare. It interacts and collaborates with Shakespeare’s Globe in London. By the end of its 25th year, 105,000 students had been involved in its festivals and associated activities. Providing educational opportunities for people of all ages – primary, secondary, tertiary, emerging and professional theatre practitioners, teachers, corporate sector and lovers of Shakespeare – SGCNZ helps lift Shakespeare from the page to performance and other imaginative manifestations.

“Far from simply creating only a small number of successful actors of stage and screen, the qualities gained through studying Shakespeare and SGCNZ’s activities are highly transferable. Close reading, repartee, listening and interpretation skills are among those which are vital for everyone, from a young student through to the Prime Minister. Collaboration and communication skills are integral to teamwork, and both contribute to building young leaders.

At the nub of SGCNZ’s activities is mentoring; so gently providing guidance and assisting the young to maximise their own potential. Another essential element in a country with a population the size of a small city in many other countries is that of volunteering. Generosity of spirit does not need to wait for a disaster – the need for it is endemic in our society. It’s the perfect way to integrate migrants, refugees, and people across the range of gender, culture and age. Through volunteering experiences, new skills are learned and contacts made through the inevitable networking which occurs. SGCNZ is most grateful to the Ministry of Youth Development for its significant assistance to facilitate our role in providing these vital developmental opportunities,” says Dawn Sanders, CEO SGCNZ and Member of the Shakespeare Globe Council, London.

Maddie as Puck

Maddie as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Maddie became an SGCNZ volunteer and also performed in the inaugural SGCNZ Primarily Playing with Shakespeare in 2014. In 2016, she performed in the Wellington Regional UOSWSF and was thrilled to be able to take part in the National Festival.

“I’ve performed in the festival for the last two years as well, and this year I got selected for the National Shakespeare Schools Production in Dunedin for my performance as Brutus in Julius Caesar,” says Maddie.

Maddie Gillespie as Julius Caesar

Maddie as Brutus in Julius Caesar

In 2016, Maddie was appointed as the Project Manager for Shakespeare in Motion, an MYD-funded SGCNZ project that brought rangatahi from around Aotearoa New Zealand together to explore what Shakespeare means to young people today, through the medium of film. Two years later, she jumped at the chance to repeat this project on a smaller scale and produced a great short film which you can view below.

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When Maddie was asked to think about some of the current challenges facing young people, she had this to say:

“A challenge facing young creatives, and one I’ve noticed among my peers, is that some people are less likely to give you a chance, and you often have to prove yourself.

Those who underestimate young people say things like ‘they’re not adults yet’, ‘they don’t know how the world works’, ‘they haven’t formulated their opinions’ or worse, ‘they just don’t care’, which is completely untrue. The voices of young people are just as valid, and we have just as much to share. This world is the one we are growing into, and we want a say in how it is built.

I would really like to thank MYD and SGCNZ for giving myself and so many other young people the opportunity to have our voices heard.”

Maddie and her brother, Aidan, were delighted when they got the opportunity to perform at the SGCNZ ShakeAlive 2016 finale hosted by Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne at Government House. ShakeAlive was SGCNZ’s commemoration of both their 25th year and 400 years of Shakespeare. Maddie and Aidan were there to represent the younger SGCNZ alumni and they performed a compilation of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Maddie at Government House 2016

L-R: Sir David Gascoigne, Maddie Brooks Gillespie, Aidan Brooks Gillespie and Dame Patsy Reddy

We asked Maddie where her motivation comes from and what her plans for the future are.

“My motivation, whether it be for a film, a play, a novel or a piece of art, always stems from the fact that I love being creative and the spark of joy when you make something with your own hands just can’t be beat. I also love sharing stories, and if I can be making the world a better place while doing something I love, nothing could make me happier.

Being creative is a part of myself that will always be there, no matter what path I take. Honestly, I’m not even sure what I want to do later in life, and I don’t think young people need to know right away. Filmmaking? Maybe. Theatre? Possibly. Archaeology? Almost definitely. All three?! If I had to give a word of advice, it would be this - be brave (even when it’s hard), be yourself (even when it’s harder), welcome opportunities, but also create them. Go out there and change the world.”

William Shakespeare wrote “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

You get the feeling that Maddie is fully in charge of her future and will achieve everything she sets her mind to.