Optimism and language lessons
June 30, 2010
Let’s help the CHCH Community
May 30, 2011

Making stuff up – on stage at Scared Scriptless

Tough but so worth it! Motatapu Event – Miners Trail 2010

Inspiring women…everyday lives

I love the fact that women from all walks of life inspire me everyday to be a better person, a better coach, a better mother and a better friend. The ‘Inspiring Women’ series is an opportunity to honour the gems in our lives as they  share their journeys. Herstory will give you an insight into the lives of women who travel their own path, learning valuable lessons along the way. They do so with style and grace and a smile on their face and remind us all of what is truly important in life.   


 Herstory: Vanessa Wells    

 Quick Bio  

 I am 40 this year, and have been married to gorgeous Jonathan for 15 years.  We have 2 beautiful boys, Lachie (9yrs) and Tom (almost 7yrs). I have had many different jobs but currently on my airport departure card I write “Actor”. I am also a fulltime mum.  I adore being home for my kids at 3pm after school and when work does force itself into this time I have a wonderful group of friends and family who step in and help out.  Jonathan can also work from home occasionally which gives us flexibility, but he is often travelling with work too, so our babysitting budget is high!    

 A conversation with…Vanessa   

  How many ‘hats’ do you currently wear in your life?    

 Family Hats: mum, wife, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, school volunteer, civil defence volunteer   

 Work Hats: Improviser, corporate entertainer, mc, voice artist, film/tv/stage actor, tv presenter, improv tutor   

 Fun Hats: running, gardening, yogi   

 Take me through a week in the life of Vanessa, what does it look like?

 Best we start with Sunday night when I pull out the diary and get a feel for the week ahead.  I like to write a meal planner for the week and stick it on the fridge to avoid that horrible 4pm “arghh what are going to eat tonight?” stress.  Jonathan and I cross-check our diaries, so no-one is left stranded.    

 Mondays: I try to avoid meetings on Mondays if I can, as I go to yoga in the morning (and in running season, I run the park before that). Mondays often find me dealing with domestic chaos from the weekend.  We also employ a cleaner to come Monday too (Christine – we love you!) and that makes a big difference to the week for us all!  After school, its rugby and cubs juggle.   

Tuesday: This is often a productive work day.  Paperwork, planning, meetings etc.  Afterschool, my lovely Jonathan arrives home at 4.30 and cooks for our kids while I go to workshop until 7pm at the Court Theatre. After workshop I often go to shows or eat out with other company members before getting home not too late.   

Wednesdays:  Always busy!  A run in the morning, I often get rostered on for school duties on Wednesdays, and miscellaneous stuff seems to fill the day.  Kids rugby and keas are afterschool and evenings are Bookclub (once a month – sheer joy!) or Screen Canterbury board meetings.   

Thursdays: An ‘at home’ day – in theory.  I often find it gets filled with one off jobs or meetings.   We try and keep Thursdays afterschool simple too.    

Fridays:  Usually long!  When training, I love a big run on Friday, however I am often performing at the Court Theatre’s late night comedy show Scared Scriptless which starts at 10pm.  When I can, I set my alarm and hit the couch for a power nap at 2.30pm before the kids get home from school.  If I’m MCing then there has been a couple of hours of planning on the Thurs or Fri.  If I’m performing, a can of Red Bull at 9.30pm helps!  It takes a while to wind down after a show, but I am usually home by 1am. 

Saturdays:  Saturday morning sport with the kids is usually a struggle, but we get there!  If I am playing Scriptless on the Saturday night, as above, the same as Friday! 

Sundays:  During the winter the Court Theatre run a highschool theatresports competition series on Sunday evenings so I am often back down at the theatre by 6pm.  The rest of the day I try to keep free for family.And then it starts all over again…the nature of freelancing makes it hard to plan ahead.  Voiceover work is usually wanted “yesterday” and I never know when the phone is going to ring with an audition or work.  Corporate work is more planned and we cast Scared Scriptless shows a couple of weeks in advance.  I can also make myself ‘unavailable’ occasionally which means I can have a social life too.  It is the best of both worlds! There is also an expectation to keep up with the arts in Christchurch so I am often out seeing other shows.  It’s not unusual to be out 4 or 5 nights a week.  Consequently I am not always at my best in the mornings but the kids are great at getting their own weetbix! 

What learning’s or advice help you navigate life?    

Keep learning!

  • Study anything that interests you whether you think it relevant or not.  In May/June I attended a series of lectures on life in the Antarctic.  Fascinating and refreshing!
  • I have recently discovered the Virtues Project and learning about this has added to my “toolkit” for life.
  • Do yoga!

Keep challenging yourself!

  • Best summed up by my favourite quotation – “Life is a daring adventure or nothing” Helen Keller

What does success look like to you?    

 It’s a kind of gloopy viscous thing that is hard to grasp but quite heavy so when you get under it you can hold it for a while.  Close?  Not quite but…I think success for me is a sane family.  And that includes a sane me.  When I am entertained by my work, challenged physically and fit, I know I make better parenting decisions and that helps make a saner family.  Success is maintaining the adult relationship with my wonderful husband, while guiding my beautiful boys through childhood, and occasionally managing to feed them all healthy food at a reasonable hour. And – wow – if I can balance all that then that really is success! And a garden with a good crop of fruit and veg is also a raving success!   

Looking forward, if you could write your own life map, what destinations would be on it?   

Lots of different destinations!  I have a strong wanderlust, and often have to remind myself to live in the moment.  Running helps me stay present, although through running I am constantly planning the next race in some gorgeous corner of the country! I believe that you cannot always control the events of your life, but you can choose how you move forward through them, and no matter what happens, I hope my life map is always moving forward. 

What next … what inspires you? 

I get inspired by so many different things and people.  I have a long “to do” list.  Last year I was encouraged to create a vision board and I have found it most useful thing!  When I have my wild “ooh I could do that” moments, I go back to my vision board and ask myself if it would fit in with what else is important to me.  It helps me prioritise.
At the moment, high on my priority list is a television series on gardening, several feature articles, and I know I should have a crack at some stand-up comedy, but that is way outside my comfort zone (and therefore worthy of the challenge!).  There are also a couple of old friends I need to reconnect with.  This leads me to the myth of “super-woman”.  I strongly believe there is no such thing.  When life becomes chaotic I remind myself of a quote by Peter Jackson when he was filming all three Lord of The Rings movies at once –  “one job at a time, each job a success“.  Now that would be super!


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Toni loves working alongside people of all ages and stages, supporting their growth and success. She lives in Christchurch with her husband and three teenage boys.

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