Raising a theatre director

Jan Peach talks about raising her actor, journalist and theatre director son Jesse Peach, founder of The Peach Theatre Company.

What was Jesse good at in school?

Jesse was a great student at school who loved writing and art. Right from kindy, the teachers recognised a different flair in Jesse and often teachers said they’d be fascinated to see where he ended up.

Was Jesse a confident, outgoing child?

Jesse is the second oldest of six children. He was a quiet and reserved child; a silent observer who took it all in without needing to say much about it. But Jesse was always quietly confident.

What were Jesse’s favourite things to do as a child?

Jesse loved dressing up - becoming all sorts of different characters. He loved soft toys, flowers, and everything that was glamorous or beautiful attracted his eye. He spent hours drawing and playing imaginary games.

What things did you enjoy doing as a family?

As a family we loved simple things like the beach, the parks, the outdoors and the arts. Jesse’s dad spent hours with the kids making batiques, tiles and other creative pieces. We have had an old bach at Piha for 24 years and most weekends and all through summer, we stayed out there, swimming, walking and soaking up the natural beauty around us.

Did Jesse go to afterschool drama, dance or singing classes?

Jesse was passionate about drama from a young age and organised his own agent. From his paper run money, he paid for his own private drama lessons. I used to have to drive him all the way to Howick and wait in the car, really wondering if it was all worth it. He also went to after school classes run by a local lady who produced a show that gave him his first taste of the
stage at age 7.

Did Jesse see lots of shows/theatre/movies as a child?

We didn’t go to shows, movies or theatre much as a family, but Jesse was continually creating shows at home. Jesse’s dad even built him a stage downstairs to perform his shows.

What were Jesse’s hobbies?

Jesse loved music and learnt the piano for many years, getting up to Grade 8. He loved nature, creation and birds. He worked at the Bird Barn for seven years and he would spend his wages buying native trees and planting them by the stream at the local park. We had many natives planted around the house at home and we now have an unwanted giant Puriri growing at Piha, thanks to Jesse’s desperation to see the world covered in native forest. He also played soccer and water polo and did surf life saving for a short time.

Did you encourage Jesse into acting?
We never encouraged Jesse into acting. He led the way and we provided what we could for him to get the opportunities he needed. His first big break when he was 14 was a role on Shortland Street and, as a mum, I remember how difficult it was to let him do this, as I knew it was giving him away to a world far bigger than himself, but again it’s what he wanted and had to do.

Who are Jesse’s role models?

Jesse’s role models were two of his teachers: Alma Johnson - New Zealand’s first woman in television, and Alison Nelson, head of drama at Avondale College.

Why do you think Jesse’s been so successful?

The reason Jesse is doing what he is doing is because he probably couldn’t see how to live life in any other way, and because he is driven by his passion for the arts and has a talent that needs to be expressed. He doesn’t care about fame or money.

If Jesse wasn’t in theatre and television, what do you think he’d be doing? I think he’d be saving the whales or saving something that is being destroyed by humans.

What are the qualities you think are most important to instill in your children?

Most important are that life’s for living and giving. Be generous. Be quick to celebrate and recognise the gifts of those around you. Love everyone for who they are. Never value someone just because of what they do. Love and love and then love again.

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