Actor’s wholehearted stage aspirations

A new play is on its way to the Herald Theatre in Auckland. Co-director and actor, Scotty Cotter, a former Howick lad, met with CAMILLA LONG to talk about his career and latest project.

Actor Scotty Cotter –successful transition to directing. Photo Wayne Martin

Scotty Cotter describes The Wholehearted as a cool, fun and magical play – “it’s about the pursuit of being vulnerable, in whatever form that may take.”

As we chat over a drink at The Portland Public House in Kingsland, I start to see something of this ardent actor’s charismatic, driven and affable personality. His eyes wander around the quirky, graffiti-splattered bar in amazement; then he voices his disbelief that this is the same place he worked in as a barman some years previously.

Years on, Scotty’s focus is now on acting. He makes light of co-directing with also performing in the show. “It’s all about good time management,” he says.

With an impressive line-up of screen credits and theatre work behind him, he’s no stranger to hard work and producing successful projects. Having acted on a variety of platforms, starting off in television, the former Howick College student admits “theatre will always be my favourite because it’s so interactive.”

“I did my first show, Mai Time in 2000 when I was 16. I just fell into it from there, found my feet working and kept going. I joined Massive Company that same year”

Scotty says The Wholehearted emerged from Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability.

“That was the first seed; from there the thoughts and creativity [of the whole cast] came into it,” he says, adding that the play explores love across generations, genders, and cultures through a hilarious but heart-wrenching performance.

While it comes together under the co-direction of Massive Company’s artistic director, Sam Scott and Scotty, the cast of seven – Scotty Cotter, Kura Forrester, Bree Peters, Pat Tafa, Denvce Su’a, Villa Lemanu and Milo Cawthorne – have each brought their thoughts to script.

Scotty says the cast interviewed people from the community to gain a wide scope of not just their own thoughts but of everyone around them, producing a play which encompasses varied perspectives and expressive storytelling.

The play weaves together stories of devotion from the young and vulnerable to the old and experienced and Scotty says the cast has skilfully “set up places throughout the play to feature voices from the interviews.”

“It is packed with emotion, with one character ‘Kints’ coming through strongly. Kints’ was developed from the Japanese concept Kintsukuroi, the art of repairing something that is broken with gold. Thus, it becomes more beautiful from being broken.”

When asked what excites him the most about the play, Scotty replies: “being able to see the audience’s reaction. When it premiered last year, as the co-director I was part of the audience. But there’s always a different energy when performing.

“I hope the audience goes for a journey in the show. The theatre makes you think for yourself, so the audience has to trust that what it thinks is right.”

With an eager audience to impress, including Scotty’s mum and sister, who will travel up from Tauranga to see the play, this man of several talents expects the cast to be in top form.

And, just a week after The Wholehearted finishes touring, Scotty’s busy lifestyle will recommence with his next project, directing a piece for Auckland Live’s, Summer in the Square.

Happy that he has found the transition from acting to directing, easy, Scotty says, “I like directing because that’s when I have to lead the room instead of distract the people in the room.”

Although a lot of Kiwi actors feel they need to go overseas to do well in their career, he says he is very relaxed about the prospect and is content to remain in Auckland.

“Life is about chance and opportunity. I’d love to go somewhere and play one of those epic roles. If it happens it happens but if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”

After some 15 years’ experience – some people may remember Scotty as Wiremu in his Shortland Street days back in 2007 – his humble advice for young, aspiring actors is: “If you want to be an actor, just do it, work hard and apply yourself.

Say ‘yes’ to everything, it’s just trial and error and figuring it out for yourself. You should also have a tough skin and know that if you don’t get the part, it’s not personal.”

With acting connections both locally and nationally, Scotty always has a project to work on and he has theatre friends in all the main centres of New Zealand.

“It’s great because I can pop up to their rehearsals and see what they’re doing and vice versa. We all support each other.”

After some probing, he also mentions, casually, that Sir Ian McKellan is among actors he has met – “he sat in the front row of my friend’s show, Two.”

Scotty has already achieved a lot since he started acting at 16, but he continues to create further goals and aspirations. His next goal is to direct a short film, but when he gets a well-deserved break he wants to focus on his big dream – making a movie.