Backstage pass

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Photographing actors on the set of a Shakespeare play is a far cry from Peter Meecham’s last story for New Zealand Geographic. In 1992, he documented a 160-kilometre horseback journey through Central Otago for the magazine; 25 years later, he’s back, with the story of a four-month theatrical production in Auckland.

Meecham, a photojournalist who works for a variety of newspapers, is more accustomed to spending time on the sidelines than in the wings, but the Pop-Up Globe and the passion of its cast and crew proved unexpectedly compelling. To his surprise, his 13-year-old son also took a liking to the plays, insisting on being his assistant in order to covertly watch the performances—and developing a brand-new interest in the arts.

“He’s the captain of the open-weight under-13 rugby team in Auckland, he’s rugby-mad, he plays cricket, he watches basketball consistently on TV—it drives me nuts,” says Meecham.

Meecham had a front-seat view of the evolution of the four plays, following them from previews through to closing nights. He saw jokes emerge and actors’ confidence grow, as the crew formed a tight-knit bond born of their marathon four months of shows.

The plays may be 400 years old, but as Meecham and his son saw first-hand, they can still make an audience of a thousand people laugh.

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