Entertainment | Theatre

13 Māori and Pasifika playwrights showcase new work at Kōanga Festival

Acacia O’Connor, Ngāhiriwa Rauhina (Te Urupuia), Hine Parata-Walker (The Jumpers), Geoffrey Clendon (Take Kuri The Dog Tax Rebellion), and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne (Out of the Ashes)

The presentation of new work from 13 Māori and Pacific playwrights will be the highlight of this year’s Kōanga Festival at Te Pou Theatre in Tāmaki Makaurau in September.

In its ninth year, the annual Kōanga Festival at Te Pou will celebrate the return of spring by laying the foundations for new indigenous storytelling and supporting future Māori theatre practitioners.

“For the team at Te Pou, Kōanga is a time for us to come together to prepare the ground and plant the seeds for new growth,” Kōanga Festival director Amber Curreen says.

“This will be our first live and in-person Kōanga Festival at Te Pou Theatre since 2019. It will be a time to celebrate new stories, and our incredible storytellers.”

At the centre of every Kōanga Festival is the annual Playwrights’ Programme play readings, with emerging and established writers presenting newly developed works. This year’s playwrights include Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne (Out of the Ashes), Geoffrey Clendon (Take Kuri The Dog Tax Rebellion), Hine Parata-Walker (The Jumpers) and Acacia O’Connor and Ngāhiriwa Rauhina (Te Urupuia).

This year’s festival also has works from Pōneke and Ōtautahi making their Auckland premieres.

Amber Curreen, creative producer at Te Rehia Theatre Company.

From Poneke, there’s He Māori?, written and performed by comedian Isaac Martyn. The work is infused with music and laughter with musical exploration into the absurdity of being both the colonised and coloniser in Aotearoa.

Also from the Windy City is ONO, which has its debut presentation at Circa Theatre early next month before travelling to Te Pou. ONO showcases pieces from six Māori and Pasifika playwrights, including Jthan Morgan, Michaella Steel, Vela Manusaute, Isaac Martyn, Poata Alvie McKree and Tainui Tukiwaho.

These different stories weave together ideas and concepts of aroha/alofa (love) In various ways; from learning to love our bodies, to the mysteries of sisters; from lost and loveless fathers to a whānau bound by struggle.

Fresh from Whao23! Festival In Ōtautahi, will be a reading of Hohepa Waitoa’s bilingual work Jim’s Room, which weaves stories of the 1990s from tāne Māori.

The opening presentation will be the newly published te reo Māori translation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, retitled Rōmeo raua ko Hurieta, and translated by Te Haumihiata Mason.

It will be a magical night celebrating one of the world’s most famous plays and te reo Māori. A popular stable at the Kōanga Festival is the annual Kaumātua Day and Whānau Day.

The Kōanga Festival will be hosted at Te Pou Theatre, Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Lebanon Lane, Henderson, Auckland from September 15-24.