Simon Coleman is a set designer, director of theatre and musical theatre, producer… the list goes on.
When asked: how did you start in theatre?
After a couple of years of ballet and at the age of seven, I discovered my life-long passion – to be The Six Million Dollar Man. Mum said, “Don’t be silly, he’s just an actor”. Bells go off in my head. From that time on I did anything I could to be in theatre all through my childhood and teenage years. Slowly I gravitated into direction and design partly because I saw more employment opportunities.
Now Regional theatre is my staple income. Throughout the country there are many amateur groups with fantastic facilities and talented people. They usually stage one large scale musical production a year where they will employ a director. I feel privileged when I get to design sets for professional companies. I have worked for many talented directors.
Simon credits much of his good fortune to the grounding he received from the Matamata Dramatic and Operatic Societies and also from his schooling. One of his school memories was performing in the 1984 Grand Variety Concert “Too by Two”. As “Kenny Rogers” he sang “Islands in the Stream” along with Deanne Cleaver as “Dolly Parton”.
Straight from school Simon pursued his acting career. By 1987 he was a founding member of a professional theatre group in Hamilton specialising in children’s shows. In 1991 he graduated with honours from Whitecliff College of Art and Design in Auckland with a Diploma in Art and Design. 1994 he co-founded and was artistic director for a Performing Arts School in Hamilton.
In Hamilton he had many major roles with the Hamilton Operatic Society. To list just a few:
Valjean in Les Miserables
Mozart in Amadeus
Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar
Fagan in Oliver
As a young-gun Simon won a Benson and Hedges Fashion Design Award in 1994 – “The Evening Post Flair Day Collection” and was highly commended in the Avant-Garde section the following year.
The turning point of his career was when he focused his energies on directing and designing and from that point forward he has never looked back. Now his is directing and designing theatrical events throughout New Zealand for schools, amateur and professional theatre companies.
He is based in Auckland and over the last 24 years Simon has directed over 100 musicals or plays and designed sets, lighting, props and costumes for countless others. He enjoys sharing his creative talents to teach and entertain people – young and old.
Fellow Matamata ex-student, actor and now playwright Richard Prevett has worked alongside and encouraged Simon throughout his career. Simon has since edited and directed three premières of Richard’s plays at successive Hamilton Festivals of New Zealand Theatre.
Although Simon does not credit himself with “Hall of Fame” status, his career speaks for itself – way back to his school days here at Matamata College.