Lady Maria Williams

(Legally I own 1x1 square foot of land in Scotland)

"A Girl Around Town"


Recently two different people introduced me as ‘A Girl around town’ on the same day and I really like that. I think it’s actually because no one knows really what I do but they know I’m always kind of hanging around.

I work in Events and also in Theatre as a performer. “Work” is a strong word because sometimes it’s paid and sometimes it’s not.

People tell me they recognise me quite a lot which is usually from taking their kids to see a show I was in, or from biking around the city forcing Fringe Festival programmes upon them, or from cleaning up their vomit at Wellington City Council events.

Who or what did you want to be when you grew up?

I asked Mum and she said ‘Jason Gunn’. She said that she knew I was a performer when I would come and dance in front of her when she was breastfeeding coz I knew she couldn’t leave. I dreamed of being discovered by an American agent and whisked away to play the cool Bball-playing international student on The OC. A girl at my high school got a part in an Aussie show about basketballing teens and I was so furious because that was my niche. I’ve wanted to be a million things though: a journalist, a What Now? Host, a teacher, an UN worker, a Mexican restaurateur, I wanted to be a single-mum and run an inn like Lorelai Gilmore but realistically she could not afford that house. At one point I wanted to be a cop but I hate violence so, yeah, that was flawed. I guess I felt I could ‘make a difference’. Lol.

What is your professional background?

I’m not sure my background is professional but it is a background! My background is that I was very much into theatre and performance in my teens and then I ‘became an adult’ and panicked. I did a year at Vic, then went off to study Hotel Management in Australia, which took me to work in North Queensland, Mexico, Scotland and Queenstown. In Scotland I got back into performance again (after 7 years out of it) singing Thursday nights in a pub doing mainly Scribe covers. Looking back, weird choice. But Kiwis in the UK become annoyingly patriotic. When August came the Edinburgh Fringe opened my eyes. So many styles of performance I hadn’t seen in New Zealand...so much dumb, clowny, silly stuff! I loved it! It made me want to both perform and work at Fringe Festivals. I then actually moved back to Queenstown and did a community theatre production of ‘Allo Allo’ in the Arrowtown hall which gave me the confidence to break the bigtime aka Wellywood. So I moved to Wellington in 2015 to get into the NZ Fringe and Theatre and Comedy scenes and just kind of hung around until people thought I was supposed to be there.

In 2017 I toured NZ with a kid’s show with Capital E National Theatre for Children. In 2018 I worked for NZ Fringe Festival, NZ Comedy Festival and was a finalist in RAW comedy quest and I was in ‘Modern Girls in Bed’ at Circa Theatre, and organised my first big event ‘Festival for the Future’. 2018 was a big year!

When do you feel the most creative or inspired?

Nothing is more inspiring than seeing a straight white guy do an awful stand-up or improv show. If you’re in the audience thinking ‘i could do better’ you are right, get up there! This is the sign you’ve been waiting for!

When are you happiest?

  1. Surrounded by people. When I actually decide I’m brave enough to throw a birthday party and people actually show up!
  2. Making people laugh
  3. When I feel like I’ve accomplished something! Like a show or a massive event. I usually cry from relief then eat chocolate cake then feel an overwhelming sense of pride.
  4. In the Sunshine! Dammit, Wellington.
  5. Travelling. I like to explore on a bike. I biked around many parts of NZ a few years ago on a tour singing Celine Dion, what a great way to explore! I’ve done some bike exploration in Mexico, Vietnam, The Netherlands, London, Ireland and many parts of Aotearoa.

What’s the best stress relief advice you’ve ever been given?

I know what it’s not! ‘Calm down’, ‘have you tried meditation’, ‘don’t watch tv to go to sleep’, ‘watch less tv’, ‘improve your diet’, ‘join a gym’, ‘chia seeds’ etc etc.

I don’t follow advice as much as I should but definitely I’m trying ‘go outside’ aka ‘go for a walk’ or just a cafe or the library… just get some air and human interaction! Gives a new perspective.

A Finnish stranger once mentioned that everyone in Finland has a sauna to get through the winter for mental and physical health. So I’ve taken to sauna-ing in Winter. Also I don’t think you’re meant to do this but have a wine afterwards!

I am not good at stress relief but going to my long-time friend Zoe’s house and her inevitably feeding me and running me a bath is my best solution to date.

Everyone says ‘ask for help’ but I’m not sure if people realise how very difficult that is, I think most people struggle to ask. So I guess me ‘asking for help’ is showing up at Zoe’s house looking unkempt and she will take it from there.

I’m also going to make myself a DIY weighted blanket with garden rocks from Bunnings. This could be a potential business: Stay tuned.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am a hoarder! This is impossible. How great is Marie Kondo though? Thank god for the Netflix show coz I’ve racked up so many overdue fines on her book from the library, which I kept losing under my piles of clothes.

I have done a lot of travelling by myself so probably my camera I’ve had for 10 years.

But probably truly it’s friends. But probably actually my pair of leather Chuck Taylors I got at an Op shop 10 years ago for $8. That’s less of a treasured possession and more of a brag.

What is the most important thing life has taught you thus far?

I guess something vanilla like ‘it will work out’ or ‘you end up where you are meant to be’ but actually maybe it’s ‘nobody’s perfect and most people are lovely and will you help you out when you’re panicked and crying in an airport like in Mexico city por ejemplo but there is the odd psycho in the world and don’t try and change them try and see the signs and stay away from them okay?’

I don’t feel like life has taught me too much but that is probably not fair to life. Or myself. Or my parents. Actually once I asked my Mum why I didn’t know which hands to hold my knife and fork in (as you can imagine this was VERY embarrassing at Hotel Management school) and she sighed and said ‘I gave up trying to teach you anything when you were 2 yrs old’. So I guess life has taught me absolutely everything (Thanks Mum!).

One thing my Mum says about things in life is ‘you either laugh or you cry’ which I have definitely taken with me. I try and see the humour in most things, where appropriate. And sometimes inappropriate.

But truly the most important thing life and my Mum has taught me: everyone is just trying to survive, you don’t know what’s going on in their life, have empathy.

What is your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in your industry?

How to survive in the theatre industry………………………………...hmm…….

………………………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………...have other income sources?

-Learn to handle rejection. I mean I can’t, but the general consensus is that that is very important. Either that or just keep making your own shows and entering them into open-access festivals a la me and many other aspiring Lin-Manuel Mirandas.

- Stand up for yourself.

- Try and get paid. Work with people who are trying to get you paid. It probably won’t be fairly paid but take what you can get. If you’re in a cooperative encourage open discussion about the spending decisions.

- Set limits. Both Events and Theatre are contract jobs that sometimes expect you to give a lot of extra hours and time and emails but actually set your limits. It can easily overrun your life and you’re not paid enough for it to overrun your life!

  • Be nice! In theatre and events, both apply. Because you need favours from people all. the. time. And you need advice a lot and you want to have people who can give you advice.

I don’t know if I’m surviving in this industry! I’m training outside of this industry because actually I want to be able to have a solid income so I can still do my silly non-profitable shows. So maybe it’s do what you need to do to survive! If you’re not surviving, have another income stream! Shout out to the people who are managing to survive in theatre. It is no small feat.

What is your big project or goal for 2019?

In 2019 I will get my Masters. Which will hopefully lead to a full-time job (hopefully future bosses haven’t found this and it’s not put them off). I am really craving consistency and schedule in my life right now.

My life has been totally different every year which is both exciting and stressful because you’re always looking for the next job and sometimes you get desperate and say yes to things you shouldn’t. I’m either over-committed and doing 5 things at once or doing absolutely nothing. I hate doing nothing.

Speaking of over committing my big performance project for 2019 is is a show I’ve been making with my gal Alice May Connolly called ‘The Mournmoor Murders’ (on 14-18th May in Auckland as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival!). It is silly and funny and ridiculous! Please come if you read this in time!

A few different friends are getting married so 2019 is the year I finally become a wedding celebrant. Call me, Jacinda!!

Oh and also ‘sort my life out’... I say this every year but this year I am 30 so I don’t have people laughing, shaking their heads and saying ‘that’s what your 20’s are for Mazza’ in reply to my misadventures. Although there’s fun and freedom in not having your life sorted out.

It is also the year I embrace the nap! Muchos siestas! Mucho energia!

Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

LIZZO! Stop reading this BS right now and listen to her music, watch her videos, follow her across all social medias, buy her CD and in turn help hopefully get her to NZ! She will lead the revolution!

Also Issa Rae, the Broad City ladies and Rachel Bloom who all made budget, funny web-series’ and they were picked up and now they have their own awesome comedy shows.

And Cher, Always Cher.

What do you continually ask yourself?

Has anyone got this far down the article?

Will my future boss read this? (Pls stop reading)

Will anyone show up to my birthday party/show/funeral?

What am i gonna do next?

Is this a good idea?

Do you have the time and energy this requires or are you just saying yes coz you’re flattered you were asked?

Why are there so many shitty ppl with opinion columns in NZ?

Who do you collaborate with best?

People with big hearts and who are full of love and empathy. Who can handle my energy and sensitivity. Groups led by a strong, funny women e.g. last year we did 'Modern Girls in Bed' directed by Rachel Lenart and that group gave me everything I so desperately needed at that time.

I also collaborate well with smart, cool, silly friends like Alice May Connolly (Just won a Best Newcomer award at the NZ International Comedy festival) and Angela Fouhy.

Who has challenged you to be better than you once were?

Audiences?

Therapists? Or possibly I challenge them. I don’t like to be challenged.

Kimberle Crenshaw.

Teenagers.

And Cher. Always Cher.

How does courage manifest in your work?

Well I have Anxiety so I have a lot of fear. Fear often leads my work so I guess anytime I step onstage and reveal something about myself that is courage. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself! But usually, after the performance the rush of adrenaline hits and I remember.

This is how I end up onstage:

(Pre show) Flattered (coz asked)> Excited> (during) Terrified> Panicked> (after) Relief> Euphoria> This is when someone gets you like ‘Wanna be in my show?’ > FLATTERED {Repeat}

You need courage in this industry, courage to fail with people noticing. You learn by doing. The stage is also my therapy, this is likely unhealthy but it’s a way of communicating I’m comfortable with … share it with a bunch of strangers! You can cringe about it later when you run into them at Buzz cafe in Lower Hutt and they’re like ‘I was at that weird therapy show of yours…’ and you laugh and apologise over and over but recommend the loaded wedges.

When has mentorship played a role in your life?

Always. From when I can remember. I’ve always had secret mentors who don’t realise they are influencing everything I do. There are always women who are empathetic, smart, creative, funny who I latch onto. Mainly teachers: Miss Affleck, Ms Steel, Dr Teaiwa…

Many of my old teachers and mentors have shown me to keep your silliness. Silliness is awesome. Here I’ve been trying to mature this whole time! What a waste.

Right now one person I consider a theatre-world mentor needs to get taken down a few pegs coz so everyone name her in things like this so she has a massive head so I’ll call her “Ro Sanderjon” so this article doesn’t come up when she googles herself.

What one thing do you think would improve gender equality in New Zealand?

There are 1000 things. But the two on the top of my head now would be:

  • More heroes who are girls and women, and more diversity in mainstream media. More non-white, non-able-bodied, non-cis representation in Film, Theatre, TV shows, TV jobs, in magazines. Better representation.
  • Consent as part of the curriculum in schools.