A new beginning with Gretchen La Roche

What do books, theatre, Indian food and indulgent cakes have in common? The answer is The Court Theatre’s new executive director Gretchen La Roche, who spoke with Metropol Editor Lynda Papesch recently.

Described as well-respected and a seasoned arts executive, Gretchen La Roche is multi-layered, like a well-written play.

Returning to Christchurch to lead The Court Theatre as its new executive director, Gretchen is understandably keen on plays, and all things theatre, yet she balances work with a love of books, baking (cakes especially), and taking relaxing walks in the hills around Ōtautahi.

For Gretchen, coming home to The Court Theatre was an easy decision. She has been an enthusiastic audience member of The Court, at both the Arts Centre and The Shed, and has long admired the vision, tenacity, and courage of the company, acknowledging “the hard mahi from many over the years,” that has enabled The Court to reach an exciting time in its history.

“Moving back to the city is a watershed moment for The Court, and to be able to play a part in helping shape its vision for the future is something that I am immensely proud to be a part of,” she says. “I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to lead and be a champion for the organisation.THE COURT THEATRE

“With The Court Theatre about to achieve its long-held vision for a purpose-built theatre in the heart of the city, the opportunities afforded by this exceptional facility are significant. Not only for the organisation itself, but for the communities of Christchurch, including the wider theatre sector locally and nationally,” adds Gretchen.

Stepping into her new role won’t be easy, given previous staffing problems, however she is confident that many of those who have supported the organisation throughout its 50-year history will continue to do so.

“The Court Theatre has been so successful because of the many people who have supported it. This includes the public that love coming to The Court, the many supporters, donors, sponsors, funders, and our Friends, and of course our talented team of artists and staff at The Court.”

The Court Theatre is New Zealand’s largest theatre company. It is a diverse and dynamic company of permanent staff plus hundreds of artists and artisans who produce 15-20 productions each year. More than 100,000 ticket buyers enter The Court each year to enjoy a
varied offering of theatrical works, most of which
are created and produced on-site.

Coming from a role as Senior Manager, Arts Development Services with Creative New Zealand, and previously working at The Court as a Sponsorship Liaison Coordinator, Gretchen knows The Court Theatre well. She also brings with her a deep knowledge of both the local and national arts landscape, and strong connections to key stakeholders throughout the country. And she has been actively involved in fundraising and networking with foundations and donors, and has experience establishing partnerships between arts organisations and iwi.

A former Chief Executive Officer of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Gretchen is also an accomplished musician, holding the position of Principal Clarinet previously with the orchestra.

A passionate advocate for new music, Gretchen was a founding member of 175 East, an Auckland-based contemporary music ensemble that commissioned and premiered many new works by both New Zealand and international composers.

In 2003, 175 East were the recipients of the KBB/CANZ citation for services to New Zealand music. Her long music career includes being director of the Gisborne International Music Competition, helping to develop the Holdsworth Prize for the best performance of a New Zealand work, and being awarded an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.

Looking to the future, Gretchen wants The Court to be a place where everyone feels at home and can enjoy outstanding theatre and story telling. “I love the way the arts can bring people together, give voice to thoughts and ideas we otherwise may not hear or think about, and provide moments of absolute joy and wonder,” she explains.

Giving her joy at the moment is her favourite  book, The Wasp Factory, and her favourite food, a classic Indian biryani.  And Gretchen’s favourite play? That accolade goes to Tusiata Avia’s Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, in which six Samoan characters make their lives between two cultures: playing, gossiping, enduring, enforcing the patriarchal status quo and carving out powerful new identities.



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