By February 13, 2012News

No less than an astonishing 43 Toi graduates, students and staff members are taking part in this year’s New Zealand International Arts Festival, across seven shows that range from Shakespeare in te reo to world première grand opera.

Whether acting on stage (Hohepa, Peninsula, Tu, The Maori Troilus and Cressida), directing and coaching (Peninsula, Masi), script-writing (Frequently Asked Questions), or working behind the scenes as techs and designers (Peninsula, Masi, Michael James Manaia) – our graduates are once again proving that Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School is absolutely integral to the versatility and excellence of the arts in New Zealand as a whole.

Toi Movement tutor Tom McCrory is particularly busy with Masi, the new show from Production Company The Conch, which he runs with his wife Nina Nawalowalo. Toi Grad and Acting Tutor Nathaniel Lees returns with Taki Rua’s Michael James Manaia; and the much-loved actor and Toi grad Rawiri Paratene (Acting, 1972) is so popular he is starring in no less than three Festival shows – The Māori Troilus and Cressida, Jenny McLeod’s new opera Hōhepa, and the block-buster Stravinsky concert with the NZSO that opens the whole festival on Friday the 24th.

And not forgetting the number of Toi grads working behind the scenes at the festival itself! Natasha James, Production Manager: Sophie Dowson, Production Assistant; and Marketing Assistant Heather O’Carroll, who also has a part in the Irish Pan Pan Theatre Company production of The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane.

And here is the full list of shows that Toi people are involved in:


Presented by The NBR New Zealand Opera and the New Zealand International Arts Festival

A powerful story, spine-tingling staging and our finest operatic talent all come together in this new New Zealand opera from acclaimed composer Jenny McLeod.

The tragic true story of Maori chief Hohepa Te Umuroa. In a production of sweeping scale, we travel from the fertile earth of the Hutt Valley and the barren brutality of Tasmania’s Maria Island penal colony to the Whanganui River in the 1980s – the sacred journey and battle to reunite him with the soil of his homeland.

This groundbreaking new work features an outstanding 17-strong cast of New Zealand’s most renowned opera singers, including Phillip Rhodes, Jonathan Lemalu, Martin Snell and Jenny Wollerman, with director Sara Brodie and Marc Taddei conducting the Vector Wellington Orchestra.

OPENS 15 March

WHERE Opera House



Ngākau Toa (New Zealand)

The famous Shakespeare tragedy – in Te Reo Maori.

Set during the Trojan wars, Troilus and Cressida follows the love between a Trojan prince and maiden and features struggles of power, hierarchy and honour between some of history’s greatest characters. Immediately following the festival it will be travelling on to London to represent New Zealand at the international Globe to Globe festival – an unprecedented programme at London’s Globe Theatre of 37 multi-lingual Shakespeare productions from around the world.

Adapted by Ngākau Toa, with a new translation by Te Haumiata Mason and featuring a host of our most respected Maori actors making up the cast. Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider) stars as Pandarus.

OPENS 9 March

WHERE Te Papa Amphitheatre

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (ACTING): Juanita Hepi, Waimihi Hotere, Rachel House (directing), Matu Ngaropo, Rawiri Paratene, Maaka Pohatu, James Tito, Calvin Tuteao


Circa Theatre

Playwright Gary Henderson takes a touching, bittersweet look at life in the 1960s in this beautifully crafted play about a small town community on Banks Peninsula. 

Michael Hope is ten years old and sleeps on a volcano. This is his playground, his paradise. But tremors begin to shake his idyll as rumblings in the adult world encroach into Michael’s life, erupting, and throwing his universe into a chaos that will change him forever.

A richly emotional journey that touches on adult issues and events in the midst of childhood. Although the story of Peninsula is fictional, Henderson says the places and some of the incidental anecdotes are real; it is a nod to a time and a place that was a step on the way to here and now.

OPENS 25 February

WHERE Circa Theatre

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (ACTING): Michele Amas, Paul McLaughlin, Jane Waddell (directing)

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (TECH): Alana Kelly, Ellis Thorpe




Royale Productions (New Zealand)

Celebrated actor Michael Hurst joins forces with two of New Zealand’s freshest young writers in this innovative new solo work, set in the Shakespearean afterlife.

In Frequently Asked Questions an insomniac called Hamlet discovers a script documenting the end of his life, and begins some serious late-night soul-searching. ‘What a piece of work is a man?’ ‘To be, or not to be?’ These are his FAQs. And Hamlet can’t sleep until he knows.

WHEN 2 – 11 March 2pm & 8pm

WHERE Downstage Theatre

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (ACTING): Natalie Medlock, Dan Musgrove (script-writing)



Taki Rua (New Zealand)

20 years after it burst onto the stages of the world, writer John Broughton’s iconic piece of Kiwi theatre returns for its Festival encore.

Michael James Manaia is a poignant story about a New Zealand man who, after returning from the Vietnam War, finds himself at odds with his culture, his history and his memories.  Directed by Nathaniel Lees and starring Te Kohe Tuhaka in the title role, this new vision of the story crosses the generations.

WHEN 25 – 4 March

WHERE Downstage Theatre


TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (TECH): Amber Maxwell, Nathan McKendry, Daniel Williams

TOI WHAKAARI STAFF: Nathaniel Lees, Lisa Maule



Tawata Productions (New Zealand)

Patricia Grace’s award-winning novel is the inspiration for this powerful return to the stage by celebrated playwright and director Hone Kouka (I, George Nepia, Waiora, The Prophet).

Weaving together text and image, Tu is an epic tale set against 1940s Wellington, the battlefields of Monte Cassino and post-war Te Tairawhiti on the North Island’s East Coast. With Kirk Torrance starring as Tu, this is a majestic story of love, redemption, whānau and brotherhood.

WHEN 1 – 7 March 2pm & 7pm

WHERE Pipitea Marae

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (ACTING): Tina Cook, Erina Daniels, Ahi Karunaharan, Tola Newbery, Jarod Rawiri, Jason Te Kare, Kirk Torrance, Matariki Whatarau, Aroha White



The Conch (New Zealand/UK/Fiji)

The Conch Theatre’s much-anticipated follow up to the international hit Vula, Masi grows from a unique collaboration between artistic director Nina Nawalowalo, legendary British illusionist Paul Kieve (the only magic advisor to the Harry Potter films), and an explosive ensemble of six male Fijian dancers.

In 1950s New Zealand a young nurse, the daughter of Cambridge-educated public schoolmasters, met and fell in love with a Fijian high chief from the island of Kadavu. These were Nawalowalo’s parents. Their romance was captured by then budding photographer Ans Westra: and Masi is a love story in black and white, interweaving the meaning of Fijian Tapa cloth with their remarkable story. A rich journey exploring the themes of loss, memory and the tracing of the lines that make us who we are.

WHEN 2 – 6 March

WHERE Soundings Theatre, Te Papa

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (ACTING): Victoria Abbott, Salesi Le’ota

TOI WHAKAARI GRADS (TECH): Lucie Camp, Pat McIntosh

TOI WHAKAARI STAFF: Lisa Maule, Tom McCrory, Tony Toufexis

TOI WHAKAARI STUDENTS ON SECONDMENT: Zarn Borgers, Lucinda Hare, Oliver Morse, Joe Newman, Manuel Soloman, Tameka Sowman, Alex Tarrant

For more information see

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