Big J Returns 2023
“Captivating raw energy, lovely supportive design. Totally a performer who’s going to connect to any audience.” – Audience Member
A solo work written and performed by Jacob Dombroski.
Big J explores Jacob’s passions – music, dance, and acting, weaving a story that allows the audience to peer in and become a part of his whanau. Highlighting struggles he has faced for being perceived to be different, Jay uses this pain to create a dialogue about acceptance and truth, inspiring others to leave their past behind and write their own destiny.
Jacob puppeteers his childhood soft toy, Tiger to describe his formative years of growing up as a 90’s kid in the Manawatu with his brother and single mum. These lighter moments of Jacob’s story are mirrored by moments of violence towards him and frustration of not being understood. A krump battle shows the moment his bully pushes Jacob over the edge after calling him a ‘handicap’. Using his body to articulate the raw emotion Jacob expresses the unspeakable through dance.
Redeveloped to get Jay on the road in 2023.
Kris Wehipeihana/ The Wellingtonista
“Alternating dance with monologue... [Jacob] shows us some of the formative episodes in his childhood. We cheer, and laugh and go very quiet when he describes some of the negative attitudes people have towards him because he happened to be born with Down syndrome… The dance which expresses his rage and sorrow was one of the most arresting pieces I’ve seen in a while”
“[Big J Stylez will] make you so very pleased that you made the effort to see an artist testing, trying-out and more importantly putting his whole soul,heart and body into his work. That kind of generosity and authenticity will make you realise just what a rarity that and Jacob is.”
“I loved this show. It was engaging and held me riveted throughout the piece. It was a work that reminded me what a celebration and powerful force theatre can be”
Written & Starring Jacob Dombroski
Directed by Rose Kirkup
Performance Design Rowan Pierce
Jacob Dombroski née Te Amo (Ngāi Tūhoe/Ngāti Porou/Asau, Savai’i) is a visionary performance artist, MC and influencer. In 2018 he took his award-winning show Big J Stylez up to Auckland Live for their Matariki Festival, which led to him gaining a role on Shortland Street as Winston Kimiora. Jacob has been performing professionally for the past 5+ years across stage and screen working with the likes of Everybody Cool Lives Here, Ohokomo Productions, and was a founder of hip-hop crew JDK. Jacob centres aroha within everything he does, showing others how to consistently come to the table with generosity.
Choreographic Support Braedyn Togi
Lighting Owen McCarthy
Poster Illustration Ariki Brightwell
Photography Phillip Merry, Matt Henley
2018 NZ Fringe Festival
Big J Stylez: ‘The Grand Design Award’,
Most Promising Emerging Artist (Highly Commended),
Best Directed Chaos (Highly Commended),
Centrepoint’s Palmerston North Tour Ready Award.
Wellington Theatre Awards
Rowan Pierce – Excellence Award for AV Design (Big J Stylez | Meremere | Rushes)
Most Original Production (Finalist)
Read Daniela Pavez‘s article of Jacob beginning his solo journey at Arts Access Aotearoa.
NZ Herald‘s Dionne Christian story, Big J shows his style to the world.
Tagata Pacifika‘s John Pulu interview with Jacob.
Michael Holland’s interview with Jacob & Rose on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp.
Jacob and Rose on TV3’s The Cafe with Mike Puru & Mel Homer
Original Performance Design:
Having worked with Rowan Pierce on multiple projects since our inception, and knowing his capabilities we took the risk of allowing him full creative control (something that normally gets divided amongst three different roles). It definitely paid off and Rowan’s managed to create something that supports Jacob and the telling of his story.
Jacob, Rose and Rowan had numerous discussions about potential avenues from the development season. When they found that Jacob’s aunty had digitised their home footage they knew they were onto something. One of the videos revealed Jacob’s previous retelling of a story had been blurred by his angelic perception of his mum, and she was, in fact, the instigator of a particular water fight.
During the start of the development, Rowan was also working on the NZ Festival presentation of Rushes, he would pop back towards the end of the day and see how Jacob and Rose had progressed. Acting as a sounding board, alongside the choreographic support of Braedyn Togi, they fed into supporting how the design and movement could help enhance dramaturgical elements.
“I go in to look at a space, come up with spatial drawings and spend a lot in rehearsals testing ideas and establishing a language for the design alongside the rest of the creative team.” – Rowan Pierce, Performance Designer
From the beginning, we had talked about the work being tourable and he was interested in creating a design that could scale up and down depending on the venue. For our final week of development, we were lucky enough to have a residency at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School thanks to their design department. Illumination + Optics generously subsidised us to have projectors in the rehearsal room meaning the team could also rehearse with the design – often when this doesn’t happen these elements feel like they’re just layered over the work and not fully cohesive. What Rowan’s created really supports the work and has been acknowledged with the NZ Fringe Grand Design Award.
We started the journey of Big J, after having worked with Jacob since 2014. In the summer of 2016/17 Jacob and director Rose Kirkup got together to develop a showing which they tested with audiences at the 2017 Pūtahi Festival. Pūtahi is an artist-led development festival organised by Tawata Productions and was curated by Moana Ete. Emerging creators and performers from various artforms presented new works, as well as engaged in experimental forays and forums to engage the soul and senses.
We asked audiences what was working, who needed to see it, what didn’t they understand or what they wanted more of. Most people came back simply saying keep going, and that they wanted more.
“The energy & enthusiasm of Jacob was all engaging. I didn’t want it to finish.”
Clip from 2017 Pūtahi Festival Development Season 2017
Our Whanau & Friends…
Rachel Tufuga, Michael Dombroski, Corban Te Amo & Freeman Dombroski.
Anne De Geus, Anne Wilkes, Apirana Taylor, Bevin Smith, Brian King, Buoy Salon & Spa, Claire Mepham, Dan Whitaker, Diana Cable, Emma Ransley, Eve Leniston-Howell, Gina Moss, Glass Vaults, Greer Robertson, Hone Kouka, Inverlochy Art School, Joseph Lane (uber bro), Michael Pitt, Mīria George, Moana Ete, Morgan Whitfield, New Zealand School of Dance, Owen McCarthy, Pūtahi Festival, Richard Larsen, SIK productions, Tawata Productions, Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, & Tola Newbery.
Te Auaha Team:
Cherie Jacobson, James Kearney, Will Harris, Olivia Kirikiri
IHC Foundation, Wellington City Council, Holdsworth Charitable Trust, Boosted Supporters, Illumination + Optics, Te Auaha, Creative New Zealand Kakano, NZ Fringe.