By day, Queenstown’s Tiffany Menzies is operations manager at the Queenstown branch of Shipleys audio-visual firm.
By night, you’ll often find her performing in the latest stage show. And whenever the local siren blares, she’ll usually be racing to Queenstown’s fire station to help with whatever blaze or emergency is taking place in her role as a volunteer firefighter.
Sometimes, she packs all three into one day – like a year ago on May 24 when Shotover Street’s infamous blaze took out Fat Badger’s pizza restaurant and upstairs institution The World Bar.
Her Shipleys shift had finished at 2.30pm and she’d just got home, kicked off her shoes and started making lunch. The siren sounded soon after 3pm.
Menzies spent several hours at the fire both inside the building and in one of the lead roles as Entry Control Officer (ECO), accounting for every person who goes in or comes out.
As ECO, she had to make sure others were lined up to take places before the crew inside got close to using the air in their breathing cylinders.
The 27-year-old was also due on stage that night at the Memorial Centre to sing and dance in Showbiz Queenstown’s Chicago.
Once the fire was out and colleagues were cleaning up, Menzies – who’d had nothing to eat – rushed to the show, an hour later than usual: “I ran to the fire station and took off my gear and ran to the hall covered in soot. I literally ran straight from the fire into hair and make-up.
“There was a bit of buzz about it – they all know I’m in the fire brigade so everyone was really excited.
“It made for a great atmosphere to go on stage with because I still had the adrenaline pumping,” she says.
Menzies arrived in the Wakatipu six years ago, planning to stay for six months. At that stage, she was managing The Bead Shop and involved in plans to franchise it back in the United Kingdom.
That fell through but she stayed on managing it for four years, having “caught the Queenstown bug”.
With a strong background in dance –she trained from age four in ballet, tap, jazz and modern – the first thing she did on arrival was inquire about local stage show auditions.
Showbiz Queenstown was auditioning for Les Miserables and she recalls rocking up thinking it’d be a small-town show with a low budget.
“The person auditioning before me got one of the leads and his voice was incredible – I was sitting in the room next to the audition hall just cacking myself.”
A gutted Menzies didn’t get her part: “It suddenly hit me that I’m not a big fish in a small pond – there’s a lot of talent in Queenstown.”
Eventually, someone dropped out of the company cast and she was invited, jumping at the opportunity: “As soon as we started rehearsing and I heard the leads singing, even people in the company, everyone was so talented – it became really apparent why I was in the company.”
Since then she’s performed in plenty of shows – including Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, California Dreaming, London Calling, Oliver – and had a supporting lead in La Cage Aux Folles last year.
For the 150th anniversary celebrations of Arrowtown and its gold-mining heritage in 2012, she directed scenes taking place in the Chinese village.
On top of all that, she dabbles in pole fitness, saying it’s a great way to train the core and arm muscles that usually don’t get used: “You have to engage those muscles to do the moves on the pole, there’s no cheat, no way around it.”
The 50kg dynamo also made the cut for Winter Festival charity boxing event Thriller in the Chiller but had to pull out after tendonitis in a shoulder.
It’s hampered her build-up to this Saturday’s Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland, raising money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand – but she’s done plenty of stair-climb training up the Brecon Street steps beside Lone Star prior to the injury.
“I just want to do as well as I can,” she says, adding the fundraiser could make a real difference for the lives of people affected. “And they’re going through so much – to just half-arse it doesn’t seem right to me.”
Menzies signed up for the Queenstown Fire Brigade two years ago, while applying for the Shipleys job – her boss there Paul Inger is a big supporter of her volunteer role and leaves her to decide if she can race to callouts.
As she lives close to town, Menzies says it’s not very often she can’t make the fire truck when the alarm sounds.
“If the office is empty and I’m the only one there then obviously I can’t. Equally if I’m doing a show I can’t just run off stage. I’m the perfect candidate really – it’s just on my doorstep so I turn out a lot,” she says.
For Menzies, along with the challenge, the volunteer firefighting gig is part of her desire to give back to the place she now calls home.
Growing up in Virginia Water, Surrey, back in the UK, Menzies says she never really felt part of that town.
“Queenstown is the first place I’ve ever lived that felt like a home. I’ve got things going on – the theatre scene, the fire brigade. I feel integrated.”