WB280421TOITOI3.JPG Cast members from the Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre and Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu rehearse for Te Whawhewhawhe & Te Marama. Photo / Warren Buckland
By Shannon Johnstone
A play that aims to open up a conversation about anxiety is touring 29 schools in Hawke's Bay.
Te Whawhewhawhe & Te Marama is a new play written by local storyteller Mary Kippenberger and starring artists from Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre and Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu.
On the last day of lockdown Kippenberger got a call from Toitoi presenter services community manager Daniel Betty asking if she would write a play for a school outreach programme they wanted to do.
With some encouragement from her daughter, she decided to do it.
Kippenberger is also a school guidance counsellor at Central Hawke's Bay College and says anxiety is increasingly becoming something young people face – about 90 per cent of the students she sees are dealing with anxiety.
Because of this she wanted to base the play around anxiety and make it a tool for going into schools to speak about anxiety and tools that can help.
Her tamariki and mokopuna are of Ngāti Kahungunu descent so she wanted to set the play in pre-colonial times and have it in English and te reo.
But because she is pakeha, she wanted to ensure the play wasn't culturally inappropriate and enlisted the help of Crystal Pekepo and her husband, Tautoko Ratu, who helped with appropriately naming the characters.
Kippenberger is thrilled with the finished play, which follows the self-journey of Te Marama who meets elements of her own personality as she explores Aotearoa's native bush.
Te Marama is challenged by each new character but is encouraged to work through her struggles and is taught ways to deal with her anxieties.
"It's just been one of those times in your life when you think, 'wow, how amazing that this is happening'.
"Going to the dress rehearsal on Thursday, I took my whānau with me and I cried in the beginning and cried at the end because it was so powerful.
"Looking at a few words that I wrote on a piece of paper jumping onto the stage and what Dan's done and the skills that the actors have brought, it's just phenomenal."
Beyond that she is hoping it will be the conduit for being able to talk to kids about anxiety.
She said the play couldn't have been done without Betty and his work as director and the talent of the cast members.
The play, which started on Monday, is touring 29 Hawke's Bay schools.
It will also be showing to the public at 2pm on Saturday, May 8 at Toitoi – Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre. Entry is by koha.