our reason for being
From Grass roots to tall shoots
To produce and perform high quality improvisation theatre and provide a supportive environment for developing performing artists and showcasing world-class talent.
what we want to achieve
To create more fun, laughter and creativity in the community to help make a more vibrant and passionate world.
The Covert Theatre started off as its own venue at 84 Karangahape Road in Auckland, New Zealand from April 2001 - 2005. The 50-seat venue with a fully licensed bar was the brainchild of Wade Jackson. It then shifted its productions for a short time to the Classic Comedy Bar until establishing itself at the Musgrove Studio at the Maidment Theatre.
In the beginning…
Wade Jackson founded The Improv Bandits in 1997, a group that still performs today. In 2000, as a pre-cursor to the Covert Theatre company he produced a season of improv at the SiLO Theatre (now The Basement) and this cast become the founding group of the Covert Theatre, which was officially established in 2001.
Wade Jackson - 2001
Wade is the founder of the Covert Theatre and its current Artistic Director. Wade is also the founding member of The Improv Bandits and has performed, studied, taught, produced and directed improvisation since 1994. He’s a double world improv champion having won titles in Calgary (2000) and Chicago (2002) and is regarded internationally as a leading authority in the art of improvisation. When he’s not performing improv, he’s on stage around the world as an in demand keynote speaker. You can find more about Wade at www.wadejackson.co
Geoff Simmons - 2001
Geoff has been performing improv most of his life, showing a strong propensity for making things up at an early age. After winning the University improv champs, he joined The Improv Bandits in 1998 and in 2000 formed the Wellington branch of the troupe.Geoff performed with The Improv Bandits in Vancouver and Toronto in 2003 and has wandered the globe, teaching and performing improv to anyone that sat still long enough. Geoff currently lives in Wellington, so he scrambles back to Auckland to join the Bandits and Covert players on stage.
Greg Ward - 2001
Greg Ward is a professional actor, voice artist and entertainer with a string of credits to his name including improvisation, opera, theatre, musical theatre, international television series and short film and television commercials. Greg is highly skilled in improvised song, and as a multi-instrumentalist he's a real show-stopper. Greg spends his days as a full-time professional master of ceremonies and he performed with the Bandits at the 2014 Chicago Improv Festival.
James McLaughlin - 2001
James was the founding theatre manager of the Covert Theatre. He is a proud Improv Bandit and a member of the troupe that won the inaugural World Cage Match Championship at the Chicago Improv Festival in 2002. He was in the televised NZ Comedy Gala in 2004 and has performed with the Bandits in Belgium, Canada and the USA. He holds a PhD in Theatre and is currently living in the UK working as a theatre lecturer at the University of Northampton and performs with the Bandits when he can including the 2015 Hawaiian Improv festival.
Mark Scott - 2001
Mark’s twenty years of acting credits span feature film, television, theatre and numerous countries. In 2009, he achieved nationwide notoriety as the slightly inept Moro television commercial presenter and still now can be spotted in cameo roles in numerous adverts for different products. Mark has performed with the Bandits around New Zealand, in Melbourne, Hawaii, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver and Belgium. He has appeared in three televised New Zealand International Comedy Festival Galas and created and hosted official late shows for the first two Auckland Fringe Festivals.
Michael Fletcher - 2001
Michael had to come to New Zealand to learn how to improvise. He calls himself a KiwiPom and embraces both steak & cheese pies and cream teas. He has performed in a wide variety of improv shows, including at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. An improv highlight was performing ‘Introducing Harold’ at the 2010 festival, the first time that the world famous Harold format had been performed in New Zealand. As a Principal and father of two he has to make up stuff all the time. He prefers doing it on stage with the Bandits.
Paul Paice - 2001
Paul is a founding member of the Covert and became an Improv Bandit in 2002. He left in 2009 and then re-joined the Covert and Bandits in 2013. He had the fun of performing at the Chicago Improv Festival in 2004 and then returned 10 years later in 2014. He has also performed at the Hawaii Improv Festival in 2014 and 2015 and in Rarotonga in 2016. Paul gets to use his improv skills daily as a top car salesman but has found that he gets better results if he leaves his propensity for fabulous Shakespeare prose to the improv stage.
Steven Lyons - 2001
Steven Lyons has performed comedy around the globe including London, Belgium, Seattle, Auckland, Boston, Bermuda, Vancouver, Wellington, Cleveland, San Francisco, across the Caribbean and is now based in Chicago. He performs with The Improv Bandits and Covert players when he can and performed at the 2014 Chicago Improv Festival and 2015 Hawaiian Improv Festival. He thrives off the diversity of improvised performances and has taken part in countless formats of stage improvisation, ranging from quick fire competitions to hour and a half musical epics.
Tom Kane - 2001
Tom is a founding member of the Covert Theatre and after one season was quickly recruited into The Improv Bandits. His physicality makes him a dynamo on stage and brings a great sense of fun and commitment to the stage. Tom has tread the boards in many productions and has acted in numerous short films, TV shows, commercials and voiceovers. Being a full time actor means Tom is also well versed in the art of painting houses, landscaping, furniture repair, and simulated bank robberies. Tom performed in The Improv Bandits shows in Rarotonga in 2016.
Tony Gilbert - Joined 2001
Originally from the deep south, Tony began his improv career early on at Otago University. He regularly performed at various venues and corporate events in Dunedin and in 1997 his team won the New Zealand Universities improv title. Tony performed with The Improv Bandits in their first international sojourn to Austin, Texas and was asked to audition for the US TV show ‘Whose Line is It Anyway?’ At this festival Tony also won the International All-Star Maestro Improv Title. Tony performed with the Bandits in New York and at the famous Improv comedy venue in L.A.
Keir Robertson - Joined 2001
Keir joined the Covert after graduating from South Seas film school. He played with the kids onstage for a few years before finding his niche doing lights and sound where he remains as a stalwart techo for most of the Covert shows since. Keir really relishes the chance to use his improv experience alongside the cast with light and sound, and from the techies box; enjoys the best and funniest view in the house.
Gill Berry - Joined 2002
Gill performed in NZ’s first all female improv troupe show Femprov, which became Barbie is Dead in 2003 with shows in Auckland and Wellington. She became completely immersed in her job and neglected one of her true loves, performing improv. After a long break, she is back to exercise her funny-bone once again. Of late her main audience has been a classroom of undiscerning five year olds. She is now relishing the chance to behave like one!
Pree Lecamwasam - Joined 2002
Pree's first foray into comedy was to be pulled up on to the stage by the MC's at a stand up comedy show and left to fend for himself. He considers it his improv debut. It didn't deter him from joining the Covert Theatre 2 months later where he started doing improv and found that he loved it. Pree is a Sri Lankan born Kiwi who loves to improvise in work, life and play. He truly believes laughter is the answer to life's problems.
Luke Stopford - Joined 2003
Half Irish, a wee bit of French, plenty of Kiwi and all crazy. Luke is a master of mayhem who delights in the dark side. He played the lead in ‘Private Dick’, the Covert’s long form film noir show debuting at the 2012 NZ International Comedy Festival. His ready wit and leading man looks balance his wooden acting beautifully.
Willie Ashton - Joined 2004
Willie is a master builder with his hands and also his mind. He built the Covert’s famous Ferris Wheel set and in 2014 attended the Loose Moose summer school in Canada. Willie finds improv gives him a greater perspective in dealing with life’s challenges and makes it more fun!
Hiroshi Nakatsuji - Joined 2010
Hiroshi is a native of Japan, a martial artist, and a librarian. Trained as a theatre clown, Hiroshi brings his very physical, high-energy style to the improv scene. Improvisation is his coping mechanism to deal with the stress of raising two boys. He is a great dad. So he says.
Sean Toland - Joined 2010
Sean joined up as part of a dare after seeing Covert Improv Night. He has found that improv suits his creative, random, playful side. His only terror is taking part in backwards scenes and interviews which fill him with an unholy dread which will not be washed away by holy water.
Kerry McComish - Joined 2010
Kerry began her foray into acting after attending an Improv Bandits show, where she made the mistake of sitting in the front row. With no time for stage fright, she was pulled up onto the stage - and thought this is fun! She joined Covert workshops the next day. Her only regret is she didn’t find these workshops sooner, as after all - she believes that girls just wanna have fun!
Jeff Cox - Joined 2010
Jeff has been a part of many shows over the years both as an improv comedian and musician. He has been a force of music adding a rich dimension to Private Dick and Instant Broadway – the Covert’s improv musical show. Jeff is a musician and writer, while also finding the time to work in I.T.
CJ Le Mon - Joined 2011
CJ loves the sense of play with purpose that she gets from Improv. She considers it a brilliant creative outlet and a great counterpoint to her day job. She marvels at how she learns something every time she steps into a workshop or onto the stage.
Kay Hammond - Joined 2011
Kay is a comedienne who is definitely not giving up her day job. She enjoys being mentally challenged and creating chaos. Improv allows her to live a life in which dignity is no object.
Julie Teestov - Joined 2012
.Julie came to NZ from the USA by boat and is a scientist turned yoga therapist who works with people recovering from trauma and chronic stress. She finds that improv is a way to connect with her inner world while also having fun interacting with fellow players and the audience
Kevin Barron - Joined 2013
Kevin found his way to the Covert through a mixture of acting, being Father Christmas at a department store and making things up on the spur of the moment during corporate presentations and training. When not working, he also writes novels, travel books and business guides.
Alice Gatland - Joined 2013
Alice Gatland is a newsreader, engineer, and music school dropout. She runs interactive events and is famous for her elaborate birthday party games. Alice likes improv because it showcases the skills she has developed from a lifetime of being underprepared.
Sam Holmes - Joined 2013
Sam immensely enjoys improvising with the Covert. He finds it makes a change from the day job where he sits at a computer writing code and is a great way to lose himself and be completely different person or three for the evening. He loves it but can’t speak on the audience’s behalf.
James Ting-Edwards - Joined 2014
Having grown up across the road from where the Covert runs it workshops, James finally got in on the act. He loves philosophy, his wife Judy, and dropping computer game references on brother Nik. We’re pretty sure he’s not a Vulcan.
Narelle Jackson - Joined 2014
Narelle started off as a little performer and then lost her way. 20+ years later she has taken to the stage and it's loads of fun! She joined Covert to bring out her creative side and loves seeing what forms from nothing and getting to play and explore scenes with other adults.
Nik Edwards - Joined 2014
Nik lives by the maxim "Life is Improv". He’s at his best when he’s open to change, willing to go on a journey, and fully present in the moment. He reckons, what better way to hone this practice than being thrown into a snake pit or stranded on a desert island with a bunch of fantastic people?
Danni Taylor - Joined 2015
Danni has noticed that improv makes a good philosophy for life; be open to possibilities, be bold, and be present. Like life, Improv is unscripted, which suits a notorious procrastinator like Danni just fine. Danni is constantly amazed by the awesome, hilarious, and at times strange places improv (and life) can venture...
Alaine Tasker - Joined 2015
Alaine got free tickets to nearly all the shows at the Maidment Theatre in 2009 as her daughter was working there as an usher. She found the Covert productions addictive, and attended these each year (second row in the middle) until finally couldn’t stand it any longer and enrolled in the classes in 2015. Now she’s loving being on stage rather than watching.
Galina Redkina - Joined 2015
Galina is a reader, procrastinator and movie watcher. Improv allows her to forget decency and not worry about hurting other people's feelings one show at a time. Her character is heavily influenced by the rigid discipline of Bikram yoga and the complete chaos of Improv, the combination of those two opposites helps her appear normal in her day job.
Georgia Sutton - Joined 2015
Georgia’s parents forced her to do the Covert’s improv course to keep her dad company. Yes. You read correctly. Her DAD! She’s very glad they did because it’s helped her with her confidence and to grow as a person. When it comes to performing on stage she love it to always give it her best shot and have fun.
Tim Sutton - Joined 2015
Having watched live improv on and off for many years Tim was inspired by The Improv Bandits to hop on stage and try performing. He loves the spontaneity of improv and the enthusiasm and energy with which his fellow players rise to meet the challenge of generating scenes, no matter how challenging the gauntlet laid down.
Amanda Moore - Joined 2015
After dropping out of art school, living on fresh air as a painter, and being the back end of a business partnership, Mandy thrives in the company of Covert people. She adores the game of being fully present, connecting with fellow players, and discovering a story – it’s a thrilling ride and an inspiring metaphor for life!
Daniel Moore - Joined 2015
Dan took up improv because he discovered, a few years ago, that he had a serious problem: he spent too much time being too bloody serious. So something had to be done about it and improv was the medicine. Since taking up improv Dan is now only serious on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoon between 2 and 4
Darcy Murray - Joined 2015
Darcy, who also answers to Sarah, (who says you can't have 2 names?) gets lots of chances to make things up in her work as a builder. She highly values the chance to practice being present and in relationship, so she forces herself to do improv, which is often the highlight of her week.
Mike Witt - Joined 2015
Mike wondered if he'd taken the "step out of your comfort zone" idea a bit too far when he started doing improv, but now can't imagine life without it He is thrilled to be a part of this enthusiastic and fun group of people.
Mitchell Fissendon - Joined 2015
Mitch works in hospitality during the day and loves improvising at night. He started doing improv at school in year 10 and was a part of the national championship team in 2014. He may be one of the younger team members but he can hold his own amongst the oldies, he thinks!
Peter Allan - Joined 2015
After nearly 20 years of skydiving Peter was looking for a new way to get his kicks. Arriving in New Zealand from his native Scotland 6 years ago he tasted much of the adventure this country has to offer before recently discovering the wonderful world of the Covert. Peter loves the energy and teamwork of Improv. He reckons that stepping on to stage is like jumping out of an airplane and fellow players are like parachutes, but thankfully it's a lot more fun, and not nearly as messy when someone dies.
Ambika Kumar - Joined 2016
Ambika has a case of early-onset mid-life-crisis, but is far too sensible to buy a sports car. She has instead wound up at the Covert exploring her creativity, the unknown and generally enjoying the ride.
Alessandra Nixon - Joined 2016
Alessandra is a writer and social media producer, a career she highly recommends to anyone who would like to get paid for playing on Facebook. She sees improv as a natural extension of her day job in which she excels in making it up as she goes along. Alessandra is very pale and a little bit awkward, with a talent for sarcasm
Marcia Walker - Joined 2016
Marcia, better known as Mars, came to improv through the power of persuasion (aka veiled threats) from her husband and fellow Covert player, Luke Stopford. Marcia comes from a line of vocal Ngati Porou women, renowned for their loud voices and competitive debating. She sang for many years in a rock band, winning the top vocalist in the NZ battle of the bands competition some eons ago. Now she's back, taking off the towel once more for an encore.
Nicolas Mankiewitz - Joined 2016
Nic is originally from Argentina, doesn't know how to dance tango (yet) but found in improv, performance and acting, his type of art. Apart from his job in Market Research, he gives creativity courses in Universities and corporations and together with his wife, they are lighthouse chasers. They have visited almost 60 lighthouses across the world.
Phillip Rice - Joined 2016
Like all litigators Phillip is a failed actor. When he’s not pretending to be cautious, serious and learned, Phillip defaults to his true self – a puerile 12 year old – adventurous, playful and irreverent. Improv encourages these delinquent tendencies.
Steve Robinson - Joined 2016
Steve works in IT and got into improv to get out of his head. Others have said he's been out of his mind for years. Answers on the back of an envelope please....
Tamara Androsoff - Joined 2016
Tamara loves how improv allows her to play in ways that are not allowed when you’re supposed to be a grown up. Making something from nothing with a whole bunch of fantastic people is a total joy and feels suitably subversive in an increasingly distracted and disconnected world. Do improv. Save the world.
Tina Wackrow - Joined 2016
Tina was part of the University of Auckland Comedy Club in the 1990s and was one of first lighting technicians for The Improv Bandits. After a long hiatus, she reignited the improv bug and loves breaking of the stifling chains of being an accountant by day, to be an improviser by night