Paul Willis as Sir Andrew (right) acts alongside Stephen Butterworth as Maria at Auckland’s Pop-up Globe theatre. (Photo: Morag Carter)
Retired high school drama teacher has completed 82 performances over eight weeks at Auckland’s Pop-up Globe theatre.
Paul Willis is currently playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and Peter in Romeo and Juliet.
He is the company’s oldest member at age 70.
Willis retired from 20 years of teaching at the end of 2015, the last 15 of which were spent at Birkenhead College.
“I loved the kids and what I did there, but with increasing paperwork and other forces I felt it was time to move on,” he said.
Willis’ last live theatre performance was 22 years ago, but it was something he “always wanted to do again”.
The 70-year-old auditioned for a role at the Pop-up Globe after a teacher forwarded him a notice regarding the upcoming performances.
“It just felt right. I didn’t have the pressure of carving out a career again,” Willis said.
He was cast in Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet after two rounds of auditioning.
But six weeks of rehearsal and 10 weeks of “physically intense” shows have taken a toll on the 70-year-old’s body.
“My knees had just about given out after six weeks of fight training and rehearsals.”
He added that his current schedule could not be further from a teacher’s.
“I never know what day it is any more. Every working day is different, doing both matinee and evening performances.”
The actor said working alongside adults after 20 years of working with teenagers has come as a refreshing change.
“I love what I do working with kids, but it’s been marvellous to work with older actors,” he said.
The retired teacher wants people to know there is nothing “dead” or “ancient” about Shakespeare.
“The energy is still very much there,” Willis said.
Over 90,000 have walked through the Pop-up Globe’s doors this season.
Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night run till 8 May.