Cian Gardner

Actor, Producer and Founder of Cove Theatre - Hamilton

Key Info


  • Bachelor of Education
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Professional Education
  • Theatre Studies
  • Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme

Award-winning theatre company founder and Waikato alumna Cian Gardner is making a name for herself in the arts world with her recent play Sorry For Your Loss.

Written and performed by Cian, Sorry For Your Loss is a new take on the everlasting journey of figuring out who you are, and explores the effects of having an absent father.

Cian developed the play as part of the Waikato New Works Incubator Programme, which helps to build the capability and capacity of performing arts in the region.

The play has had sell-out seasons in Hamilton and Wellington and plans are in place to take the show nationwide with funding from Creative New Zealand.

Turning her passion into a career

In 2018, Cian completed a conjoint degree at Waikato - a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education, allowing her to put her love for drama and education to good use.

She says the impetus for building a career in theatre came after the birth of her son. “After having my son I realised the importance of finding a career path I could take that fulfilled me personally. Being a mother was all encompassing, but I knew to be the best mother I could be I needed a career that I enjoyed going to every day and was passionate about.”

Degrees in hand, Cian wanted to address the lack of opportunities for Māori storytelling in the Waikato. “In my theatrical experience there have been very few opportunities to audition for Māori characters. So I decided to create the pieces myself and share stories from my community,” says Cian.

In 2018 she founded her own theatre company, Cove Theatre. The kaupapa of the company is to bring Māori storytelling to the mainstream stage. Her debut show, Rauru, which was co-written with friend Karina Nathan, was performed to a sell-out crowd at the Rotorua Fringe Festival.

Cian went on to win the Creative New Zealand 2019 Ngā Manu Pīrere emerging artist award which recognises young successful Māori artists who are starting out in their career. Winning the award put Cove Theatre on the radar and helped Cian to strengthen her relationship with Creative New Zealand.

Learning from mentors and strong relationships 

Cian says her time at the University of Waikato opened her eyes to different perspectives and taught her the value of relationships.

“I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of some amazing teachers including Gaye Poole and Dr Laura Haughey. They saw something in me and gave me the skills and confidence I needed to seriously consider a career in the arts.”

Cian says that Dr Haughey encouraged her to diversify her skill set in the arts to help employment prospects.

“I started as an actor but realised very quickly that if I wanted to take the arts seriously then I needed to wear several hats, including writing and producing.”

Her advice for students who want to pursue a career in the arts is simple - always be open to learning.

“Continue to seek advice and mentorship, work for people who you respect and want to learn from, and always hustle.”

Photo credit: Michael Smith.

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