A small army of volunteers help bring DEC productions to life each year. Take a glimpse backstage and learn why our ‘props master extraordinaire’ DEB GISBY loves to get involved.


Deb Gisby arrived at DEC a decade ago seeking ballet lessons for her then 11 year-old daughter, Tessa.

Younger siblings Jake and Chloe soon followed suit, and the Gisbys soon became one of the most accomplished families at DEC. The two eldest now dance fulltime (Tessa with LINK dance company in Perth, and Jake at the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington), while 14 year-old Chloe will take to the stage in this year’s DEC production of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Deb’s own mother was a former drama teacher so she’s well aware of the enormous effort that goes into producing a stage show on this scale. “I firmly believe that if your kids are doing activities or sports, then you should offer to help,” she says. “About four years ago I got involved in the props department. I was really helping Robyn Pickett at the time (Robyn used to run the admin and DEC shop) and everything I know about props I’ve learned from her. She was an artist so I can only aspire to be as good as her.”

Working fulltime as an accountant in Putaruru requires a lot of ‘left brain’ thinking so Deb enjoys unleashing her creative side by painting all the large backstage scenery and props (such as Cinderella’s carriage) for DEC productions each year.

She and her fellow props team member Leah Wahab also keep track of the enormous stockpile of props that are created – and often recycled – as show time rolls around. “We don’t tend to throw anything out,” Deb explains. “The mobile phones always get used but only two years ago the phones looked quite different. So we now have a set of old-fashioned phones plus our modern iPhones.”

One crucial set of props underway this year are four horses which DEC dancers will bring to life. “Prue is almost visionary in some of the creations she comes up with. If there’s one thing in this year’s show that will be worth going to see in the prop’s department, it will be the horses. They’re hilarious! It’s going to be very memorable.”

Planning and props creation began in August and Deb will spend countless hours sourcing everything that’s required. “It’s a lot of fun and we have a really good time. There’s always a lot of friendly banter between the props team and the fast-change ladies on show nights because they keep trying to steal our people!

Deb enjoys the “buzzy atmosphere” on show nights and always encourages other parents to get involved. “Don’t be afraid of offering to help,” she says. “There’s not some secret club or a need for training. If you’ve got a child and they’re dancing, you are always welcome to join in the fun.”

This year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk will be staged at Baycourt on Friday December 13th and Saturday 14th. To purchase tickets, visit the DEC shop or Baycourt’s ticket office.