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Te Pou Launches Māori Playwright Developmental Programme

Ground-Breaking Developmental Programme for Māori Playwrights Launched at Te Pou

Te Pou Theatre presents KŌANGA FESTIVAL

1 – 17 September

In association with Going West Festival

Te Pou, Auckland’s Māori Home of Theatre, is proud to announce the details of their innovative development programme. Four Māori playwrights have been selected to workshop their original scripts in this ground-breaking programme unlike anything currently on offer in Auckland: Aroha Awarau, Maraea Rakuraku, Krystal Lee Brown, and Jason Te Mete.

Modelled from a successful indigenous developmental works programme in Australia, Te Pou have been granted funding from Creative New Zealand to create the first iteration of a programme specifically for Maori playwrights. Awarau, Rakuraku, Brown, and Te Mete were selected due to their outstanding and diverse concepts that will be refined in the programme, developing their submitted scripts into fully fledged works. With workshopping from local and international dramaturgs, directors, and actors, the four works will then be performed in the Kōanga Festival programme, with two double-bill readings in the Whakarongo Mai evening sessions on Wednesday 6th and Wednesday 13th September.

In an intensely personal show, Aroha Awarau has submitted his new work Provocation for the programme, an exploration of the unjust provocation defence strategy that saw those using the defence literally get away with murder as their charges were downgraded to manslaughter. Also known as the ‘gay panic’ defence, the story follows two gay men murdered by their younger lovers who successfully used the provocation defence, relying on a homophobic jury and society. Writing a gay play using his voice and experience as an openly gay artist with a deeply emotional story, this work will be true to Aroha’s timely and poignant style.

An acclaimed storyteller, Aroha (Ngati Maru/Ngati Porou) has enjoyed success in three different writing disciplines – playwriting, scriptwriting, and journalism. Spending the majority of his career as a journalist, currently as a story producer and journalist at Native Affairs, Aroha twice won ‘Magazine Journalist of the Year’ at the NZ Magazine Publishers Awards, was nominated a further four times, and was named as a finalist at Canon NZ Journalism awards in 2017. His first play, Luncheon, which had a sell-out season in Auckland in 2014, won ‘Best Play’ at the 2015 NZ Scriptwriting Awards, and he has just been named as a finalist for Pikihuia Māori Writers Award for best Short Film Script, adding another string to his already impressive bow.

The new show by celebrated playwright Maraea Rakuraku will be developed in the programme, exploring the idea that it takes a village to raise a child and the profound impact this can have when something devastating occurs. A highly emotional piece that tugs on the heartstrings, an ensemble cast will bring Papakāinga to life on stage, centred on the Pā with 20 fully fleshed out characters and a horse as the very fabric of the community is tested and stretched.

Maraea Rakuraku is a proudly Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa storyteller, broadcaster and reviewer who’s genre-spanning career has covered writing across print, stage, and the web. Dedicating her life’s work to giving a voice to the marginalised, Maraea’s plays and poetry have been described as powerful and epic. Aside from creating her personal works, Maraea is the founder of and performer with spoken word troupe DuskyMaidensNobleSavages, and is the Founding Director of Native Agency Aotearoa Ltd, an organisation committed to growing Indigenous and Minority voice. Maraea will also enter the International Institute of Modern Letters doctoral programme in 2018, examining representations of wahine Maori and whakamanawahine in theatre.

Quickly becoming a familiar face and rising local talent, Krystal-lee Brown has developed her first work as a playwright for the programme named Huia Kaimanawa, a stunning and heart-warming bilingual Christmas story. Set in the outskirts of Tamaki and unfolding around two present-seeking twins who hope that Hanakoko will pay them a visit, this charming tale celebrates the fusion of cultures in our city, and creating a show for tamariki that will be accessible for speakers of either (or both) of our national languages.

Krystal-lee (Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Maniapoto) is a passionate advocate for Te Reo Māori, speaking Te Reo as her first language and attending Te Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa as a child. Krystal’s specialist skills lie in the media, formerly as a presenter and journalist for Māori Television. Having developed as an actor over the last 12 months, her first focus is as a proud mother who aspires to inspire young Māori mothers to persevere and overcome the stereotypes that often impede their paths. The show she plans to create will serve to break down the barriers in accessibility for shows in te reo by aiming it at children, helping in the process of normalising the language for our kids.

Jason Te Mete will also be working on his debut work as a playwright in the programme, creating an important bilingual work which aims to shed light on youth depression and suicide titled Little Black Bitch. Bringing together contemporary dance and haka fusion with a live Aotearoa roots soundtrack, the show provides a platform to have an open korero about the contemporary epidemic in our community, particularly for Māori males, and hopefully inspire healing and shed some light on this crippling mental health issue. Having already completed an initial movement workshop on Little Black Bitch, and another focused on the musical direction planned with Ria Hall in Wellington, the piece will be a vivacious lively work that seamlessly integrates music, movement, and script to tell this powerful story.

Channelling his personal experiences wrangling with his own black dog of depression, Jason (Ngāti Ranginui) is a multi-disciplined artist who has enjoyed success as a freelance actor, singer, dancer, director, vocal coach, musical director, and pianist. Among his accolades, Jason received outstanding reviews for his performance as Mitch Albom in the NZ premiere of ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ (Newmarket Stage Company), and his recent performance and musical direction of the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival season of 'K'Rd Strip'.

Returning for a third year, Te Pou Theatre’s Kōanga Festival gathers together the community for a celebration of new stories and storytellers, running from Friday 1 – Sunday 17 September. Based at Te Pou, Auckland’s Māori Home of Theatre, the development programme is part of the extensive festival that will present a range of performances, showcases, workshops, readings, and social events, in association with Going West Festival.

Friday 1 – Sunday 17 September
Te Pou Theatre – Auckland’s Māori Home of Theatre

Te Tīmatanga / Opening day
Friday 1 September, 10am – 1pm
A warm and welcoming opening Morning Tea for kaumatua from the community with entertainment and storytelling. Contact us on if you’d like to nominate kaumatua join us.
Free event

Teka or Tika Workshop Showing
Friday 1 September, 7.30pm
An industry invited event

Saturday 2 September, 2pm
Performance in Te Reo Māori by from Takirua and Capital E, adapted from the classic children’s book by Gavin Bishop and first published in 1993.
Koha entry

Tuhi Tika – Emerging Playwrights Workshop with Albert Belz
Sunday 3 & 17 September, 10am – 3pm
A two-day Master class programme presented by award winning playwright Albert Belz. Sessions will also include Q&A forums. To book your place in this workshop, please contact
$120 for the two-day workshop

Whakarongo Mai – Playwright Development Readings
Wednesday 6 & 13 September, 6.30pm
Readings of the works developed in the Kōanga Festival programme with local and international dramaturg work shopping. Double Bill performances with two new works on show each night. Join us for a kai and korero as we celebrate these new Māori playwrights
$10, Tickets available from

Peter Paka Paratene – A night of story, song and verse with Rawiri Paratene
Thursday 7 – Saturday 9 September, 7.30pm
Ask me anything. Join Rawiri Paratene for the premiere of his first solo show as he shares yarns, poetry, and song (some of his own, others of his choosing) in a whimsical and insightful but ever joyous performance.
$20 – 25, Tickets available from

Whānau Day
Sunday 10 September, 10am – 4pm
A fun filled day celebrating storytelling from around the globe with theatre performances, story readings, face painting, market stalls, children’s games and competitions. Nau mai haere mai! Check out for the full schedule.

Free event


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