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Jess Sayer

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Jess Sayer is an actor and multi-award-winning screenwriter and playwright, whose work has been produced both locally and internationally. She lives and works in Auckland. She attended Kamo High School, after which she did a degree in communications and journalism. She later became interested in theatre and moved into studying drama at The Actors’ Program, graduating in 2012.

She has appeared in Shortland Street, Filthy Rich, Dirty Laundry and the drama Runaway Millionaires. In 2016, she both wrote and acted in the web-only series Auckward Love, for TVNZ. In 2019, she appeared in the play Mr Red Light at the Aotea Centre.

As a playwright, Jess Sayer has won the ‘Playmarket b4 25’ competition three times. In 2015, aged 25, she won the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award. In 2019, she was nominated for three New Zealand Writers’ Guild awards (SWANZ), and in 2020, she won the Adam NZ Play Award.

Interview with Elle Wootton, Theatreview:
“I’m really passionate about writing for women. There’s such a lack of that. … I just don’t understand why that can’t be a thing … We’re pretty entertaining people, us women!”

Because of this dearth of opportunities (especially for women over 50), Sayer explains she is focusing on creating these kinds of roles in her more recent writing as well as exploring relationships we often don’t see on stage. “I had never really seen a lesbian relationship on stage of any kind of great gravit.,” She wanted to explore the “little nuances and little quirks” of what is just a normal relationship, “but they’re women.”

Sham – A twisted black comedy with four hilarious, badass ladies making some theatre magic! – delves into the sometimes merciless viciousness of siblings and family members, showing what secrets can do to tear people apart. The tensions are palpable and so enjoyable to feel and watch as they get closer and closer to bursting.

Jess currently has several projects in development, including a feature film, two TV shows and a stage musical with Tim Finn.


For Ellerslie TheatreSham (2021) writer