Anxiety is a disease that infects our rangatahi in pandemic proportions. And can you blame them? The planet is dying. Basic human contact is fraught with the fear of infection. And every moment, every mistake is documented, preserved and judged in the court of social media. 

Theatre practitioner, Kristyl Neho is the modern day superhero coming to fight the problem, with her dream team of creative educators, Sarah Tawhai, Amy Griffiths and Eunice Smith aka Mumty. Neho conceived of Maia Dreams to provide rangatahiwith the tools to overcome their fears and embrace their authentic, confident selves. 

Maia Dreams works with individuals, schools and community groups delivering their Confident Me programme, gently prying rangatahi from their shells, building them up, inoculating them with that much coveted, elusive protective factor, resilience. Currently they work in around fifteen schools across Hawke’s Bay, both in groups and one-on-one, and also have an online programme, essential for targeting the many kids who have not made the transition back to the classroom after Covid stay-at-home orders.

Maia Dreams Performing Arts Programme works with tamarikiand rangatahi aged five to sixteen, currently from Te Kura, the distance learning school with the support of educators Adele, Kane and Sophie; and Camberley Community Centre, led by Julia, Stirling, Ali and Ashleigh.

Their current project is Whakawetiweti, an original devised theatre production empowering students to tell their own stories through poetry, monologue and song.

Whakawetiweti translates as bullying, but its wider meaning includes the acts of being disgusting, loathsome, abhorrent, horrible, repulsive, revolting, vile, ghastly, grisly, gruesome, horrid, shocking and undesirable. It’s quite the laundry list of adjectives, but each participant has been the victim of such behaviours and has a story to tell. 

These rangatahi are moving through adversity in order to rise and shine on stage, with theatre as therapy. Supported by Maia Dreams’ creative team, each practitioner and educator passionate about making a difference, they have devised a piece of theatre to drag their experiences into the light, to work them out creatively as an act of healing and empowerment. 

Unlike the many excellent excellence programmes making youth theatre in Hawke’s Bay today, the Maia Dreams’ kids were not selected for their particular interest or affinity for theatre, rather theatre is a tool to allow these rangatahi to make sense of their past experiences and transform them into a courageous act of outreach. This is a democratising piece of theatre, the kind of work that changes the lives and minds, both of those making, and viewing it.

The kids themselves are in their element. For once they are being shown that what they have to say is important, that their all too ordinary stories deserve to be heard. They’ve found a collective solace in the production and their new found tribe that is healing. They hope that by telling their stories, those who see it will relate to their own experiences, or perhaps evaluate their own behaviour.

They’ve been coming together to do the mahi for this show, under kind and expert guidance, for weeks and the sense of collective excitement is palpable. You can witness their success first hand on the first of the month at St Andrew’s Hall in Hastings, absolutely free as part of the extensive two weekend programme of Fringe in the ’Stings.

Whakawetiweti, Saturday 1 October, 1pm, 3pm, St Andrew’s Hall


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