Playwright Susan Battye has previously been the Programme Manager for the Bachelor of Māori Performing Arts, at Te Wananga O Aotearoa and head of Drama at Epsom Girls Grammar School. She studied in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1978 for a Diploma in Drama and Education with Dorothy Heathcote, and gained a M.A. in Education Studies from Loughborough University of Technology in 1993. Most of her plays have been written for use in schools, and Susan’s publishing history is a credit to both their calibre and her knowledge of what teachers want. In 2001 she co-wrote Ponsonby Road with Tim Bray and in 2020 she wrote Orcland, both for adult audiences.
Susan began writing plays for students she taught at Greymouth High School because she could find nothing to direct that came close to fitting their needs, and nothing in the curriculum that reflected the local community’s social history. Together with Thelma Eakin, in 1977 she wrote and directed The Shadow of the Valley, a play about New Zealand’s biggest industrial accident, the Brunner Mine disaster of 1896. The play was subsequently published by Oxford University Press and has since received many performances throughout New Zealand. The playwrights’ co-written historical novel, The Mine’s Afire, based on the play was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards in 2010. In 2020 Susan published a series of dramatic sketches and a one act play for students in Dramatic Shorts 1: An Anthology of Plays and Dramatic Shorts 2: An Anthology of Plays, with accompanying resource books with User Friendly Resources.
Susan is a writer who is inspired to write with particular people and communities in mind. For example, her play In the Closet is set in India and New Zealand and it has dialogue in English, Hindi and Māori, reflecting the ethnic mix of the class it was originally written for.
In 2024 Susan was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honours List for services to Performing Arts Education.
"Once students feel the power of theatre to transform their view of the world, to create metaphors for their lives, they never look back," says Battye.