STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: 2017 Adam Award winner

Mother hen and chicks, October 2012.

A play inspired by my mother’s adventures with poultry, and described at a workshop as surrealist and existentialist, has won the 2017 Adam New Zealand Play Award. I’m rather chuffed, thank you very much.

I’m in Melbourne at the moment so 2016 Adam winner Maraea Rakuraku very kindly accepted the award on my behalf, with something I prepared earlier:

Still Life With Chickens was going to be a co-writing venture with my Lovely Wife. She came up with the title and the concept, and I suspect she envisioned a situation where she would roam the study reeling off dialogue and scenes while I sat dutifully at the keyboard and typed everything in.

Because I love my wife dearly and I value our marriage, I worked on the play in secret for two years, and presented the script to her — crediting her appropriately, of course — as a fait accompli.

I acknowledge my fellow longlistees, in particular Maraea Rakuraku for kindly accepting this award on my behalf.

Thanks to Creative New Zealand for its support in getting the first draft to the finish line.

Thanks to Playmarket: Murray, Salesi, Kirsty, Allison — and before Allison, Stuart Hoar — for their tireless work in developing, supporting and hustling for New Zealand playwrights.

Thank you to the Adam aiga for these awards.

And thank you to my Lovely Wife who believes in me more than I do.

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One More Schmooze

Playmarket Auckland: F5, 99 Queen Street, CBD.

The other week, I went to the changing of the guard at the Auckland Playmarket office: Stuart Hoar is moving on to less reading (of other people’s writing) and more writing (of his own) (which is as it should be), and will be replaced by Allison Horsley, formerly Court Theatre Literary Manager.

There was food and drink on hand, and there were a few more familiar faces than I expected — should be no surprise after being in this writing gig for so long, but still —and the hour I had set aside to pay my respects very quickly became almost two hours of catching up and talking with:

  • Jo Smith, recent Kingswood dramaturg, whose upcoming writing projects I look forward to;
  • Philippa Campbell, Auckland Theatre Company literary manager (and film and television producer);
  • Roy Ward, current freelance theatre director and, although I should let it go, will forever be the person who rejected my application to write for Shortland Street;
  • Murray Lynch, Playmarket big cheese;
  • Sam Brooks, dramatist, critic and man-about-town (I didn’t actually talk to him — but I waved as he flew by);
  • and the very lovely Roger and Dianne Hall — yes, that Mr Hall — and he was refreshingly to-the-point with our brief discussion on writing for theatre and developing audiences in competition with the small, small screen.

This has been quite a year for shoulder-rubbing and such: there was the 2016 Arts Market in Wellington*, and the SWANZ Awards and Big Screen Symposium in Auckland, not to mention a workshop here and there. It might explain why I’m a little frazzled.

There’s going to be more of it in 2017 and, somehow, I’m rather looking forward to it.

 

* I don’t know why I didn’t blog about this. But it was nice to be in my hometoon.

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STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: a clinic

The script, post-workshop.
The script, post-workshop.

Last weekend, thanks to the administrations of the indefatigable Salesi Le’ota at PlaymarketStill Life With Chickens enjoyed a workshop directed by Andrew Foster, dramaturged by the redoubtable Stuart Hoar, and with the collective acting prowess of Iaheto Ah Hi, Jess Robinson and Louise Tu’u.

Where the last Kingswood workshop generated the words offensiveadolescentpuerile and crass to describe the play, this latest workshop elicited symbolismsurrealist and existentialist.

Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are.

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KINGSWOOD: Prelude

Last weekend, I nipped down to my oul’ hometoon and ran into this:

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Cuba Street closed to traffic, its footpaths and road filthy with pedestrians, all of it sprinkled with light rain showers and a very family-friendly vibe: a street festival called Cuba Dupa. Nice. I walked past the crowded foodstalls with their mouthwatering aromas and found sanctuary in the cool and quiet Clark’s Cafe (where they still have cheesecake cup cakes, very nice indeedy).

Once fed, watered and rested,  I hop-skip-and-jumped over the unimaginatively named City to Sea Bridge to Circa Theatre where Kingswood won the 2015 Adam Award for Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright. I guess I’ll be revisiting that script sooner than planned.

While at the Adam Awards, I rubbed shoulders with:

  • Hone Kouka, co-winner of the 2015 Adam Award for Best New Zealand Play for Bless the Child, as well as winner of Best Play by a Maori Playwright;
  • runner-up Dean Parker with Polo (though I do prefer his initial title, Fear and Misery in the Third Term);
  • Michelanne Forster, winner of Best Play by a Woman Playwright for The Gift of Tongues;
  • author of the highly commended, SignificanceTom McCrory;
  • the always luminous Miria George;
  • the boundlessly talented Moana Ete;
  • Wellington man-about-town Jonathon Hendry;
  • the irrepressible KC Kelly;
  • David O’Donnell, fresh from directing Victor Rodger’s incendiary My Name is Gary Cooper in Hawaii;
  • and the Playmarket gang of Murray LynchStuart HoarSalesi Leota, and Claire O’Loughlin.

That’s me: an utterly shameless name-dropper.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Interlude

Okay, so The Goddess and I snuck down to the capital for some time-in with cafes and restaurants and a wee bit of shopping, and Goodbye My Feleni was awarded the 2013 Adam Award for Best New Pasifika Play.

Which meant that I missed a day-long rehearsal which I should have been apprehensive about missing. But you know what? At the preceding rehearsal, the directors and actors generously granted my wishes of workshopping all remaining scenes and providing some audio for a teaser which I knocked together below. And I’ve finally come to understand the method to the directors’ ah, method.

Which is a typically long-winded way of saying that whilst I was tucking into a ribeye steak (rare) and/or churros for breakfast, I spared nary a thought for pre-production because it’s in good hands. Seriously.

So yeah. The awards. I shared space with fellow winners Paul Buckley, Renae Maihi, Philip Braithwaite and Hannah McKie. Big ups to Playmarket for the event – effervescent director Murray Lynch, the sartorially elegant Salesi Le’ota, and ever imperturbable Stuart Hoar. And a wonderful chat was had with Circa manager Linda Wilson who let slip that Circa Theatre – just like the Basement Theatre – has a risk-share model for incoming productions; something to bring up with Producer Jenni when the season is over.

Our final week of rehearsals commenced tonight. In my absence, lines have been cut, props have been introduced that are not in the script, and concepts have been introduced to me that I have difficulty visualising – but you know what? They all seem to work.

As always, the level of achievement I get in this collaboration is not what I expected.

It’s exceeded.

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Blatant Name Dropping

Earlier in the week I attended Playmarket‘s 2008 Pasifika Playwrights Development Forum. Fellow BREAK survivor and newly appointed Playmarket development coordinator, Jenni Heka, was responsible for my attendance: she’s scary.

In my experience, Pasifika* gatherings have been the last place to have a good time. I’ve felt out of place at them, like I’ve gatecrashed someone’s birthday party. Most have been a combination of boring gabfest, bitch sessions, and/or a mob hysteria where one had to choose sides or get the hell out.

Not so this week. It wasn’t once boring. Instead of “woe is me” rants, we had fire and passion – where outsiders might’ve seen some rabble-rousing radicalism, I saw empowerment by example and vision. And everyone – everyone – was so freaking nice. There was an atmosphere of collegiality, of a common goal of telling Pasifika stories. A feeling of community.

I hadn’t expected to be so inspired: seeing my competition fellow Pasifika creatives making things happen; swapping numbers and email addresses; making contact. Future posts will explore the culture scene thingie (obviously, I’m still sorting it out in my head) but for now I’ll just name drop:

  • Insiders Guide to Happiness lead, Fasitua Amosa (Samoan);
  • Royal Court Theatre head, Ola Animashawun, who provided his dramaturgy services to the forum;
  • Love Handles and Miss South Pacific writer Arnette Arapai (Niue);
  • Actors Equity representative, Teresa Brown;
  • director, screenwriter, fellow guild member, and all-round gentleman, Tony Forster;
  • award-winning playwright and actor Dianna Fuemana (Niue/Samoan);
  • And What Remains writer, Miria George (Rarotongan/Cook Islands);
  • writer, director, producer, comedian and Killa Kokonut, Vela Manusaute (Samoan), who is many things because he simply gets it on;
  • established playwright and currently New Zealand Film Commission development executive, Hone Kouka (Maori);
  • New Zealand acting icon Nathaniel Lees (Samoan);
  • Fulbright scholar and playwright, Victor Rodger (Samoan/Scottish);
  • Phoenix Seve, whose work-in-development In the Name of the Father was given a public reading by professional actors and I was simultaneously electrified and brought to tears – and it’s still in development;
  • BREAK survivor and actor, the irrepressible Bronwyn Turei (Maori);
  • and writer and filmmaker, Louise Tu’u (Samoan), who also showcased some scenes from her work-in development, Providence, which is my must-see for 2008.

So many names that I recognised, whose work I’d seen and adored. And I got to meet them! For real! It was so cool!

I must get out more.

* Note for international readers: in New Zealand, Pasifika means of Pacific Island origin, ie., not Maori. Here in New Zild, the Maori and Pacific Island population are already such a part of the Kiwi culture that to call them ethnic minorities, though statistically correct, would be like describing African Americans as an ethnic minority. We all be Kiwis here.

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