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BAGGAGE @ BATS, celebrating 20 years

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For Immediate Release
BAGGAGE @ BATS, celebrating 20 years. 1-5 Nov, The Studio

Baggage @ Bats is the overarching title of a season of 3 original NZ works celebrating 20 years of creative work from the Baggage Co-op and being staged in The Studio, 3rd floor at BATS Theatre.
The co-op has produced 26 theatre works, many of them at BATS, starting with the play Baggage, written, directed and performed by co-founders Moira Wairama and Tony Hopkins as part of the 1996 Wellington Fringe Festival at BATS. Several Baggage shows have won Fringe awards including the play Questions which was also adapted for television and won a Qantas Media award.
The Studio is the intimate performance venue situated in an area of BATS once the domain of The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes who owned the building before it was purchased and renovated by Peter Jackson.

“I always wanted to get up to that top floor and have a look,” says producer Moira Wairama, whose new book The Mothers Childwas launched at BATS in January to mark the start of the co-op’s celebrations. “The Studio is the perfect intimate venue for storytelling which is the basis of most Baggage Co-op work, and it’s appropriate the three shows we are presenting reflect this kaupapa”

A KETE of COOKED KUMARA, adventures in a new land. 6pm 1-5 Nov The Studio BATS
In this solo performance, actor and storyteller Ralph Johnson shares the personal stories of both his male and female ancestors and their relationships with Tangata Whenua in the Wellington-Wairarapa districts between 1840 – 1880.
“It’s a story of their interaction with the land, the tangata whenua and each other”, says Johnson, who has been telling bits of this story for some time and has woven them together to create this show.
“I became fascinated by the domestic side of our history, especially how much interaction there was between Maori and Pakeha. I was surprised by the number of settlers who spoke Maori, including some of my own ancestors and it made me think about living in a bi-cultural country, what it meant in the past, what it means for us today and what could it mean for future generations”
Johnson has had a great response from audiences when sharing these stories from Wellingtons past. As his show is about actual historical Wellingtonians it is not uncommon for someone to approach him after a performance to tell him they are a descendent of one of his characters. “They often have a story of their own to share. I find most people want to know about where they come from and this show gets them thinking about their own ancestors ”

Three Wise Blackmen . 8pm 1-5 Nov , The Studio BATS
African American actor and storyteller Tony Hopkins solo show Three Wise Blackmen pays homage to the three men who played an important role in shaping his life philosophy: his father Ervin Hopkins, a street hustler called Sophisticated Player and Ken Dixson, the friend who introduced him to theater.
Originally a workshop performance in the Baggage Co-op 2015 Fringe show See-k Speak these are stories Hopkins has been shaping over a number of years.
“Three 3 Wise Blackmen is a continuation of personal stories that I started developing in our previous show Te Haerenga”, says Hopkins. “That show dealt with personal identity while this new work looks at how three very different men influenced my wider world. I still see this as a work in progress, very much like my own life”
Hopkins association with BATS pre dates his co-founding of Baggage Co-op. He directed the play Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking by John Ford Noonan for the first Fringe Festival at Bats Theatre in 1990. Since then he has directed and performed in a number of successful shows, and also toured nationally and internationally as a storyteller.
"I come from a family of storytellers, especially my father” says Hopkins, “and although I came to acting later in life, this show explains how I was already acting on the streets long before I found theatre.”

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Poneke: pre booked storytelling for local schools
As part of Baggage @ BATS, show producer and well know storyteller Moira Wairama will be offering pre booked shows for local schools. PONEKE, a storytelling of traditional Wellington Maori myths and legends, offers tamariki an opportunity to visit the iconic BATS theatre to hear stories of how the harbour was created and named.
Wairama is also author of the book The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour . “I think it is important for our tamariki to know the myths and legends of where they live and while Ralphs show is a story about Wellington’s settler history, I wanted to offer another option for younger audiences.”

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