James Waites was born on Buka Island off the mainland of Papua New Guinea in the days when Australia was responsible for the ‘Administration’ of this country. He went to boarding school at Holy Cross College, Ryde, where he was never molested (he intends to sue over this). James began a Law Degree at the University of NSW in 1973. This being Gough’s first year in power, and being greatly influenced by this Prime Ministers high ideals, James calls himself ‘a Whitlam Baby’. Despite passing his first-year exams, it was suggested James consider an alternate career path. He is still looking.
After majoring in Drama, James began his professional career writing arts documentaries for ABC Radio, before bluffing his way into reviewing plays for the influential National Times in the early 1980s . He helped create the short-lived New Theatre Australia. He has taught theatre history or similarly titled subjects at UNSW and Uni Western Sydney from whence several graduates have gone on to bigger and better things.
James is probably best known for his years as chief drama critic at the Sydney Morning Herald through the mid-1990s. After being ‘fired’, possibly after dumping big time on Les Miserables, James continued to write on arts and culture for several publications including The Bulletin.
James compares theatre reviewing to a merging of the gift for pastoral care with dentistry. His favourite exponent of the form is Michael Feingold – ‘a smart writer with a big heart’ - at New York’s Village Voice.
For some years, James has been employed by National Library’s Oral History Program where he is currently conducting an extensive series of interviews with Australia’s leading theatre professionals. After contributing reviews and comment to www.australianstage.com.au for about two years, in August 2008 James decided it was time to push his own boat out into the cyber-ocean of cultural comment. Hence this site – www.jameswaites.com
James great loves are dogs and actors: “Both species are cute to pat, excel in performing wonderful tricks, and lick you all over for humble rewards like liver treats and pieces of cheese ” he observes.
0406 063 199 (not late at night when you are schickered!)