Her debut live performance in the 2004 Stage Challenge made even Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes nervous.

Performing alongside 70 of her peers in the Penrose High School's Stage Challenge performance Cultural Identity, the show depicted New Zealanders recognising one another's differences.

The teen - who had already starred in movie smash hit Whale Rider by then - was one of thousands of teenagers on stage during that year's event.

"I'm really nervous actually," she told the Herald at the time. "I was really nervous before rehearsals even," the then 14-year-old said.


Keisha had no film acting experience before Whale Rider - which included a spine-tingling speech with a school group on stage.

She said she learnt there was a big difference between film and stage acting.

"[On film] it's about keeping it real and with this they're all saying, 'You've got to be melodramatic about everything'."

Earlier today the Herald reported that the Stage Challenge Foundation - the charity that runs Stage Challenge - was cancelling the iconic high school performance event, along with its primary and intermediate equivalent J Rock.

The foundation ran the event from 1992 to 2017 but decided to call it quits late last year.

Organisers say economic conditions led to the axe falling on the events.