Auckland Live Staff Spotlight: Usha Bhana

Auckland Live Staff Spotlight: Usha Bhana

Senior Producer

Published: Thursday 20 May 2024


Auckland Live just turned 10! As we mark a decade of bringing the city performing arts and events to create memories that last a lifetime, we will be highlighting the journeys of some of our amazing staff behind the curtain who make the magic happen.

This week, we meet Usha Bhana.

Usha Bhana, Senior Producer at Auckland Live

Introduce yourself and your role at Auckland Live. 

My name is Usha Bhana, and I’m the Senior Producer at Auckland Live.

I came to Auckland Live in 2017 to work as a Producer in the Programme Development team. I’d come from a music background so moving to theatre production was a massive learning curve, especially considering the wide variety of events that Auckland Live has through all our spaces. Before Auckland Live, I’d worked at the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, first in the operations team and then in artistic planning. While I was there I’d had a very close working relationship with the Auckland Live account managers, especially Glen and Caleb, and I’d always really admired the work Auckland Live did and the culture of the organisation. So when I eventually left the NZSO, I was thrilled to have the chance to work here.

I moved to the Senior Producer job in 2020, and in 2023 became the manager of the Producing team, which has been another big change and learning opportunity.


What does your job entail?

The job has two main parts. I work as a producer to scope and deliver many of our large-scale, internally produced events, and I also lead a team of producers who are working on other events in the Performing Arts portfolio.

In real terms, the job is about making sure that everyone around me is in the best position possible to deliver whatever they’re working on, whatever that entails.


Paint a picture of a ‘day in the life’ in your role as Senior Producer.

It can be really varied - everything from scoping events, developing budgets, and writing contracts, to meeting with artists and producers, supporting my team in their events, and dealing with any ‘fires’ that happen throughout the day. I spend a lot of time being a sounding board for artists and colleagues as people try to find the best solution for different situations.

Ultimately, the job is to make sure the right people and the right resources are connected at the right time and place to provide the best possible outcome for everyone. Everything we do is about creating high-quality, exciting, memorable experiences for the artists, the performers, and the audiences.


What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

I love the outcome. Working in the performing arts can be quite demanding, with high expectations, big personalities, and significant financial risk. But all of that is worth it when you get to the show.

I love being able to attend an event that I’ve worked on, especially if it’s something I’ve been involved with over several years. I love watching artists and companies deliver incredible work. I love watching an audience see a show for the first time and seeing how much they enjoy it. One of my favourite things about an opening night is seeing how happy everyone is to experience it, as well as the immense sense of relief that the show is finally here.


What’s the hardest thing about what you do?

Performing arts producing can be very complicated. Everyone involved with an event has their own part to play in bringing the show to life, and they all have their own timelines, priorities, requirements, and demands. One of the hardest things a producer needs to do is to balance everyone’s requirements and desires, along with the budget and logistics, while making sure the artists are able to perform at their best and the audiences have an enjoyable experience. A producer needs to be able to articulate a shared vision for an event that everyone can believe in and work towards, but it can also mean some tricky negotiating sometimes.


What has been a highlight or special memory for you in your job at Auckland Live?

There have been a few. Being involved with the event to rename the theatre in the Aotea Centre to the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre is one. Working on the Auckland Live Cabaret Season across a few years and seeing so many new New Zealand works come to life. More recently, it was wonderful having the ARBORIALIS Luminarium in Aotea Square and each day seeing people experience it for the first time – watching kids and adults get lost in the space and seeing their faces light up as they explored it.

Being able to be involved with so many different events that people enjoy so much is always a highlight – I’ll never get tired of seeing that.

Auckland Live Behind The Curtain

Shows and events Usha is looking forward to:

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