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Jo Randerson

1986 - 1991
Randerson, Jo is a fiction writer, playwright, theatre director and performer.  

She was born in Auckland and grew up in Wellington, where she gained a BA in Theatre and Film from Victoria University of Wellington, and was awarded the prize for best portfolio in Bill Manhire’s creative writing course in 1996.  She is the founder and Artistic Director of Barbarian Productions, a Wellington-based theatre production company.  

Jo writes short stories and prose poems, often with a philosophical theme. She has a sharp ear for dialogue and is interested in experimental forms.  Dialogue and experimental forms are a key part of her writing for theatre and publication.  

Reviewer Margot Schwass, writing about Randerson’s first short story collection The Spit Children in The Evening Post, comments that Randerson’s ‘narrative voices are wonderful – funny, troubled, yet cracking hardy: “Just then the head of her doll came off accidentally in my hands.  I said I was very sorry but she told me to go home now because she was bored of me”’.  

In a review for The Keys to Hell in Landfall 209 Anna Smith writes that ‘Randerson’s world is a “holding tank” inside which we shriek, or remain terrified and mute witnesses to the despair that is life – a theme rehearsed over and over.  Provocation, not subtlety, is the writer’s special effect’.  

Randerson's published books are The Knot (Wedge Press, 1998), The Spit Children (Victoria University Press, 2000), and The Keys to Hell (Victoria University Press, 2004).  She is the author of numerous plays; those published include Fold (The Play Press, 2004), and Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong in Red Light Means Stop (Women’s Play Press, 2003). Randerson's play 'Good Night - The End' played at Downstage Theatre in Wellington in 2009.  

She has also been widely published in literary journals such as Sport, Landfall and Glottis, and anthologies, including The Picnic Virgin (VUP, 1999). Her short story 'The Sheep, The Shepherd' appears in The Best of New Zealand Fiction. Volume Three (Vintage, 2006).  She won the Sunday Star Times Bruce Mason Award for playwriting in 1997 and was the 2001 Robert Burns Fellow at Otago University.   In 2003, she was a Department of Conservation Wild Creations Artist in Residence. The programme aims to encourage artists to create works inspired by New Zealand's natural and historic resources.  

In 2008, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand honoured Randerson as an Arts Foundation New Generation Award recipient.  The award celebrates early achievement to five artists biennially who are judged to have developed an individual identity that demonstrates richness, range and depth, and stand for the strength and quality of their particular art form in New Zealand, at their level. She has also been short-listed twice for the IIML Prize in Modern Letters, and was the recipient of the 2009 Foxton Fellowship, worth $6,600.