Classic Play Purapurawhetu Headlines New Festival (Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival 2010)

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The inaugural Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival showcases work from pre-eminent playwrights Briar Grace Smith and Albert Belz brought to the stage by directors Cathy Downes and Raymond Hawthorne and starring a strong line-up of actors including Rawiri Paratene, Tama Waipara, Bronwyn Turei and Miriama McDowell.

This years inaugural event features three plays one classic, one current release and one by an emerging playwright. It also introduces a novelty event, the 24-Hour Deadline Theatre Challenge, in which five leading Maori playwrights work to a time challenge.

The Festival, which is part of the Auckland and Papakura Matariki Celebrations, features the following plays:

  • Purapurawhetu, the haunting drama by Briar Grace Smith is now a classic, performed internationally and around the country since its award-winning debut in 1997 and now a part of the school curriculum. The new production, which runs in the Hawkins Theatre Papakura from June 16-18, is directed by renowned director Cathy Downes and stars Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider), Scotty Cotter (Shortland Street), and Roimata Fox (Korero Mai). Purapurawhetu also plays in the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber June 30-July 2.
    • Purapurawhetu is a story with many threads. It is a weaving pattern based on the stars, based on the souls of ancestors. As a young man works to complete tukutuku panels for the new marae, a mysterious old woman arrives to help him. She reveals a past of hidden secrets, dark stories, jealousy a past filled with loss, but also a future filled with hope.
  • Raising The Titanics (1-3 July) comes to the Festival direct from its debut at TAPAC. (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre) Written by Bruce Mason Playwriting Award winner and current Waikato University writer-in-residence Albert Belz, Raising The Titanics is directed by Raymond Hawthorne and stars Tama Waipara (Rent), Fran Kora from the band Kora, Wesley Dowdell (Outrageous Fortune), Bronwyn Turei (Go Girls), Miriama McDowell (No 2) and Faye Smythe (Shortland Street).
    • Raising the Titanics is a magical showpiece that journeys from the present day back to the golden age of the Maori showband era to reveal what really sunk the Titanics perhaps the greatest Maori showband never to have existed. Somewhere beneath the oceans of music, mirth and memory lies the truth.
  • Te Kaupoi (July 21-23), by Whiti Hereaka recently won the Adam New Zealand Play Awards best play by a Maori playwright award. Directed by Nancy Brunning, who is also renowned as an actor, and starring Jason Te Kare, Tina Cook (Second Hand Wedding) and Kay Smith.

The Festival sees the introduction of a novel event, the 24-Hour Deadline Theatre Challenge. (July 4). Five leading Maori playwrights will be given the ultimate deadline to write a 15-minute play in 12 hours. The following 12 hours will see top directors and actors produce the play into a show for performance at 8pm Sunday July 4.

Taonga Whakaari: The Maori Playwrights Festival arose from discussions at the 2007 Maori Playwrights Hui, which identified a need for Maori theatre practitioners to have a place to hone their craft. Hawkins Theatre -Papakura general manager Graeme Bennett, tasked with expanding the theatre into the community, saw a festival as a way to meet both objectives: Its an incredible opportunity for Maori to write, perform and produce their stories in a purpose-built venue, and the Maori Playwrights Festival gives the theatre the opportunity to interact with our local community.

Bennett says community support for Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival is crucial and the event has the backing of the local iwi (Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamaoho, Akitai, Ngai Tai, Ngati Te Ata), who are represented by a Kaitiaki Unit,

Kaitiaki spokesperson, George Kahi, acknowledges the history of Maori theatre: Our kaumatua of Te Whare Tapere, people like Don Selwyn, Wi Kuki Kaa, Jim Moriarty, John Broughton, Apirana Taylor, Witi Ihimaera. I acknowledge all those who follow in their footsteps and those who are part of this new, but traditional, concept.

There is also a reference group of performing and screen arts practitioners including Pita Turei, Tainui Takiwaho, Jenni Heka, Albert Belz and Maea Rawiri, shaping the Festival. The process of gathering this invaluable support has been an organic one, imbued with an enormous amount of aroha from many quarters, Bennett says.

There has also been vital financial contribution from Creative New Zealand, Toi Whenua, North Shore City, NZ Post, Papakura District Council and Hawkins Theatre-Papakura.

Bennett, who is also the executive producer of the festival, says he hopes it will grow in size and stature every year, Our aim is to increase the number of productions to include multiple venues including marae around the Auckland region, and eventually to tour our works nationally and internationally.

NOTE TO MEDIA you are invited to cover the Launch of the Festival on June 2 at the Hawkins Theatre-Papakura, 13 Ray Small Drive, Papakura.

There will be two events on June 2 to celebrate and announce the inaugural Taonga Whakaari, Maori Playwrights Festival:

  • 7am 9am: Dawn ceremony.
  • 6pm – 7.30pm: Evening ceremony, attended by the playwrights, actors, directors, dignitaries and celebrities, which will feature a short performance excerpt from each of the three plays.

Please contact Sue May (suemay@xtra.co.nz, 0274739318) to arrange your media passes.

Bookings at Ticketek 0800TICKETEK http://www.ticketek.co.nz

http://www.hawkinstheatre.co.nz

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