A desire to share the story of the first Māori Miss New Zealand is what inspired local playwright Cian Elyse White to pen Te Puhi last year.

The play, based loosely on the story of Rotorua's Moana Whaanga and Maureen Waaka, enjoyed a sell-out season in Auckland last year and saw Cian win the Script Writers Association of New Zealand award for Best Play and Best New Writer.

This weekend, Rotorua audiences will have the chance to hear the play read aloud as part of the Big Picture Minor Deets monthly Play On series, and the first event for the inaugural IHI Fest – an indigenous performing arts festival.

Cian says she is excited to be sharing the play with a local audience, particularly given its subject matter.


"Moana and Maureen won Miss New Zealand titles in 1954 and 1962 respectively, and were leaders in sharing Māori culture and language at a time when the Miss New Zealand crowns were predominantly awarded to white women.

"The play celebrates powerful women and is also really cheeky and fun. There are a lot of aspects Rotorua audiences will relate to and love."

With no set, costumes or props, the play reading is a way of sharing theatre outside of a traditional theatre setting.

Local actors Huia Clayton, Angela Frank, Kimo Houltham, Atutahi Potaka-Dewes and Simone Walker will join Cian to bring the words to life.

The play will be held at the Monarch Room, Princes Gate tomorrow at 7pm.

Tickets are $5 and can be bought from bigpictureminordeets.com.

For those looking to get a dose of theatre in a theatre, IHI Fest also presents Ngā Puke at the Rotorua Little Theatre from September 11 to 16.

Cian is directing this play with local actors Kimo Houltham and Simone Walker.


"I created IHI Fest to showcase local performers and Ngā Puke is the perfect vehicle to do that.

"It's a beautiful story set in the Hawkes Bay in 1939 and follows a young Māori farmer and a pākeha artist who are separated by the outbreak of war, only to be reunited at a military hospital in Crete."

Tickets for Ngā Puke are available from eventbrite.co.nz.

Rounding out the IHI Fest programme are two free events – a playwriting workshop by prominent Māori playwright John Broughton, and two performances of I Ain't Mad at Cha, written by Rotorua playwright Turene Jones and starring Rotorua actor Ngahiriwa Rauhina.

I Ain't Mad at Cha tells the story of a Māori boy in Gisborne in 1999 who is disillusioned with his place in the world and finds solace in the work of rap artist Tupac Shakur.

The show has enjoyed two successful seasons in Auckland and will be playing on September 7 and 8, 8pm, at the John Paul College Hall. Entry is free.


The playwriting workshop takes place on Saturday September 15, 1pm to 5pm, at the Rotorua Little Theatre.

Attendance is free but registrations are essential. Email cianelysewhite@waitiproductions.com to register.

IHI Fest is presented by WAITI Productions, with support from the Rotorua Little Theatre, Big Picture Minor Deets, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and Princes Gate.