What I Did This Year — Part Three

This is the view of Wellington from the International Institute of Modern Letters’ work room:

Contrary to The Lovely Wife‘s opinion of Wellington weather, this was how the city looked most days I met with my fellow scriptwriters.

What can I say about my year in that work room?

We all worked hard to be in there.

We continued to work hard. We shared work stories, war stories, and horror stories. We all wanted to write. We wanted to be inspired by who and what we admired and aspired to be like.

We wrote whatever the hell we wanted — prevailing and imminent zeitgeists be damned! — and Ken gave us the space and support with which to do so.

We all went through the pain of creating — actual wattage varied with each writer — but the work room was a haven where we could confess and share and not feel alone for a two to three hours.

This year was a treasure. I got what I wanted out of the course: a project I knew would be challenging — it almost got the better of me several times, I tell you — and, one month on, I’m just glad to see the back of it. I also got to know and admire and respect nine other writers, most of them half my age, all of them talented and motivated story-tellers, each with a recognisable voice — each I’m glad to know is out there writing.

So. That was my year.

The Tyke scans her free-fire zone.

Time now for a little lie down as the festive season approaches.

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What I Did This Year — Part One

Late last year, I had the brilliant idea of doing a Master of Arts in Creative Writing.

The University of Auckland offers an equivalent MA and is only a couple of hours drive south of Fortress Mamea, but there was a certain je n’ais se quoi that an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at the Victoria University of Wellington held for me. Part of it was the cachet IIML has. A larger part of it, to be honest, was that the IIML is in my hometown.

The Lovely Wife, gods bless her cowboy boots, arranged her whole year’s work schedule so I could commute between the winterless north and the windy city. I planned a sub-48-hour travel itinerary for each of the 24 workshops that were spread between March and October:

  • Tuesday
    • 3:30am–6:30am — drive from Fortress Mamea to Auckland Airport
    • 7:30am–8:30am — fly from Auckland to Wellington
    • 8:30am–9:45am — buses from Wellington Airport to Victoria University
    • 10:00am–1:00pm — Tuesday workshop at IIML
  • Wednesday
    • 10:00am–12:00noon — Wednesday workshop at IIML
    • times varied according to cheapest flights booked but —
      • bus to Wellington Airport
      • fly to Auckland
      • drive to Whangārei
    • — with arrival times as early as 7pm and as late as midnight.

I looked at that itinerary and thought, How hard could it be? It’ll be fun — I’ve got several years worth of podcasts to catch up on. It’ll be a blast!

The novelty of that commute wore off after the first week. Six and a half hours of travel each way will do that. But I did it, and I’m here to blog about it.

On the very first day, programme director Ken Duncum had a bunch of portfolios to show us greenhorns what we’d be producing by year’s end. One of them was for my favourite New Zild television show:

I took it as a sign that — commuting aside — I’d signed up for a year of awesomeness.

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Home Alone

Wellington by night.

I suppose it’s an annual pilgrimage: as Matariki descends upon this lush nation, I take myself to my hometoon of Wellington for a bit of colour and culture. The Lovely Wife didn’t accompany me this year as our schedules didn’t work out (and we’d been down this way only a few weeks earlier).

This time around I:

  • saw Kia Mau Festival highlights Taki Rua’s He Kura e Huna Ana and the premiere season of Deer Woman;
  • attended a Playwrights Hui where I —
    • had the pleasure of meeting Tara Beagan (Canada), Jorjia Gillis (Australia), Lily Shearer (Australia), Mitch Tawhi Thomas (Wellington), and Jason Te Mete (Auckland);
    • and caught up with Ali Foa’i, Mīria George, Natano Keni, Hone Kouka, Jamie McCaskill, and Ilbijerri’s Rachel Maza;
  • and, outside Kia Mau events, met with various Wellington residents about one thing or another.

Unlike last year there was no dining at the usual, nor a Mamea family catch-up, but it was a productive trip, and my hometown is always always fun to visit.

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STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: final week in Wellington

I think I have two new favourite words: ‘sold out’.

The Wellington season, despite some early nerves, has gone very nicely with good houses and great reviews from Theatreview and The Theatre Times.

Speaking of nerves, the extended Mamea aiga attended the opening night: our Stern but Loving ParentsAwesome Sister and her girls, and Staunch Bro and his family. They said they enjoyed the show and I can’t ask for more than that. The Lovely Wife was not called on to take one for her husband so it was quite the lovefest and very validating for this writer.


I’m going to leave further Still Life updates to Facebook and Twitter. I’ve other projects that need progressing, and much as I like to shuck and jive away from work, deadlines loom.

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STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: final approach to Wellington premiere

It’s all “Still Life”-this and “Still Life”-that, some of you are carping. I can’t help it. It’s a big thing for me.

It’s a week out from the show’s Wellington premiere and my anxiety has increased considerably.

Why the nerves, you may ask, when 1). box office returns must be pretty good, and 2). touring is the fun part of being a playwright. Yeah. Well. I’m taking my mother to the premiere next Wednesday and I’m experiencing a very familiar feeling like I’ve done something very bad and I’m going to have to own up to it.

Mrs Mamea with one of her brood, 2012. (Photo credit: Christina Mamea.)

It’ll be fine, my siblings have been telling me, our mother’s gonna loooove it. But I recognise the tone in their voices: the kind of tone where they know I’ve done something wrong, too, and I’m going to have to take my lumps, and boy are they glad they’re not me.

I shall hold onto a couple of thoughts over the coming week: how Simon Wilson describes the play best as a hymn to [my] mother; and how The Lovely Wife will be on my arm at the premiere where, if necessary, I can use her as a shield.

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Home Again

Civic Square with The Lovely Wife, Wellington.

The Lovely Wife and I have just returned from a few days south where we —

It was exhausting but funUntil next time, Wellington.

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Hometoon

I saw Ghost in the Shell the other week. It was fun: it had gunfights, sci fi techy stuff, Beat Takeshi and flashes of me oul’ hometoon of Wellington under layers of set dressing and CGI.

Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.imfdb.org.)
Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.filmnz.com.)
Victoria Street alley, Wellington — in a previous life, I worked in the building on the right there. (Photo: www.atlasofwonders.com.)

It made me feel unexpectedly homesick.

Might be time for a visit soon.

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Cultural Navigation

So — don’t tell anyone — but I was doing a little light research when I read the following passage:

[French explorer de Bougainville marvelled at the skill of the Samoan sailors who knew] how to use the sun and stars as a guide and how to take advantage of prevailing winds. Furthermore, they seemed to have a wonderful sense of direction that would tell them the right direction of travel no matter what strange surroundings they were in. And, like a bird of migration, the Samoan sailors unerringly returned to the island from which they had set out.

And I flashed on this early exchange:

WELLINGTON -- 2008

Our PET WRITER and his GODDESS seek directions from the writer’s AWESOME SISTER.

GODDESS

We just want to find the nearest supermarket.

AWESOME SISTER

Easy-peasy: you take the first left and you’ll see a KFC on the corner. Drive past it for three blocks until you see a McDonalds, take a right before the golden arches, and you can’t miss it.

GODDESS

... I have no idea what you just said.

PET WRITER

It’s okay, I got it.

GODDESS

(off writer and his sister)

... It’s an island thing, isn’t it?

Pet Writer and Awesome Sister try not to smile patronisingly at her.

Wellington, 2008: there’s a KFC two blocks down to the right there.
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KINGSWOOD: Prelude

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

Photo1033

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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