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Te Tairawhiti Rangatahi Got Talent

Stars from New Zealand television drama Head High, Te Huamanuka Luiten-Apirana, and Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna 26, are making acting more accessible to rangatahi on the Coast.

They said they were inspired to bring this opportunity for the rangatahi to Tolaga Bay and Gisborne because of how transformative acting can be for youth.

“It's about giving them a space to feel safe and be creative and explore,” said Hinepehinga Rauna, 26.

She grew up in Tolaga Bay and wanted to do an acting workshop after having the “privilege” of being taught by drama teacher Julie Radice when she was at the area school.

“Julie Radice brought drama to Tolaga Bay Area School and I went ‘OK, this looks interesting'. It was a time in my life where I needed some way to express myself, because I felt uncomfortable in my own skin,” said Hinepehinga.

Te Huamanuka, 24, grew up in Ruatoria and attended Ngata College.

Across the two weeks of the workshops, rangatahi learned how to convey themselves as an artist and about script breakdowns and auditions., as well as building confidence in themselves as a performer.

Lunches and transport were provided.

“I know everyone doesn't have money for a holiday programme and that maybe people can't afford to bring lunch along, or maybe they live half an hour up the Coast so they might not be able to get there everyday,” Luiten-Apirana said.

With support from Turanga Ararau, Turanga Health, Puku Ora, J & A Cafe, Tolaga Bay Area School, Te Runanga o Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Creative New Zealand, and Rangai Productions, they had enough support and funding to bring their initiative to life.

The three rangatahi tane who took part in the workshop at Tolaga Bay Area School were thrilled about choosing something new. They acted out Shortland Street scripts, learned stage combat and shot their own short film about a boy moving to a new school, struggling to fit in because he is not good at basketball.

“We have learned new things and how to be brave in front of people. We did some ‘Shorty' scripts — I was Marty,” Manawa Harrison said.

“I was Louis, Louis King,” said Rawiri Morice.

Workshop tutor and fellow actor, Richard Te Are, who is from Heretaunga, said it was important for rangatahi to know exactly how special they were.

“Although you come from a smaller place that doesn't have as many resources around them, we can help them. There are connections out there willing to come to you so that they don't feel isolated in a place where maybe there isn't as much mentorship around them,” Te Are said. The 32-year-old played Teina Pora in the film Dark Places. He was in TV series The Luminaries and The Dead Lands.

Luiten-Apirana said she would love to say the workshop was a smaller part of a bigger dream.

“In the future I would love to have a massive holiday programme where the kids get to pick what they do,” Luiten-Apirana said.

Eventually the women hope to open their own full-time centre here on the East Coast, providing master classes for rangatahi who want to explore their creativity through visual arts, acting, music, and performances. They also want to be able to provide alternative therapies for youngsters who may not fit within current therapies available in Tairawhiti.

Hinepehinga Rauna said she wants to have a permanent venue on the Coast and Gisborne and eventually go nationwide.

“I want to build centres around the country that offer all of these services and we work with the industry to provide oppourtinities for our Maori communities, Pasifika communities, our indian, our chinese communities.”

The Rangatahi Performance Workshop at Tolaga Bay Area School ends today Friday and the Gisborne workshop runs from January 17 until January 28.

Playing the game: Te Huamanuka Apirana-Luiten (left), Richard Te Ari, Manu Te Puni, Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna and Rawiri Morice play Bang, a game aimed at helping the students warm up. All pictures by Paul Rickard
LEARNING THE WORDS: Te Huamanuka Apirana-Luiten goes over some lines with Manu Te Puni.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Students and tutors rehearse a scene for a short movie created during the two-week workshop at Tolaga Bay Area School. From left are Manawa Harrison, Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna, Rawiri Morice, Manu Te Puni and Te Huamanuka Apirana-Luiten. Richard Te Are is filming the action.
SHOOTING HOOPS: Manawa Harrison (left) and Rawiri Morice rehearse a scene for their short film while tutors Richard Te Are (second right) and Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna keep an eye on the action.