NYDS 2024 participants

 Last Sunday at Toitoi the curtain fell on another successful week of NYDS: Taiohi Whakaari ā-Motu, the foyer filled with dramatic teens making heartfelt goodbyes to fast friends new and old. 

Eight days previous, these same rangatahi filled the Havelock North High School auditorium with nervous excitement. They were received with a powhiri by the host school, before new artistic director, Ben Fagan, took the reins. The traditional shout outs to their home places saw kids cheering for big cities and small towns from Kerikeri to Gore and everywhere in between. 

Mayor Sandra Hazelhurst welcomed them to the region, affirming Hastings District Council’s support for the arts – in word if not in future prospects. Toi Whaakari Tumaki Tanea Heke encouraged them to learn through play – a central tenet of the school’s kaupapa.  

The following week saw 186 rangatahi between 14 and 19 immersed in learning. This year’s students included 80% first timers, many encouraged along by ambassadors from previous years. 

Long days in class were punctuated by guest speakers, including former poet laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh, and former Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival Director, Pitsch Leiser. In the evenings they were treated to performances, both by students and tutors, and to two New Zealand Fringe Festival favourites – comedy clowning cabaret, Delightfool; and Dance Plant Collective’s contemporary piece, The Rituals of Similarity.

Friday night’s showing of work saw them return to the Toitoi stage for a lively display of stage combat; an abridged contemporary twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; heart baring performance poetry; some numbers from Blood Brothers; an odd but topical piece of original theatre; and joyfully riotous drag kings and queens of all genders. Hosted and voiced over by students, with the tech class running things behind the scenes, these teens were given agency over their own show, empowered by the skills they had acquired over NYDS week.

Trust Chair, Ina Patisolo, impressed upon the community the need to bridge the gap between the rising cost of everything and what could reasonably be asked in tuition fees. The answer, for NYDS as for many artistic endeavours, is to solicit subscriptions – monthly contributions on a sliding scale with corresponding rewards. NYDS are banking on the enormous goodwill generated from past and current students and their whānau to ensure the program’s longevity.

Saturday was Festival Day at Havelock North High School. Despite the rain, spirits were not dampened. In the gym the circus class showed off their skills at a range of feats from stilt juggling to aerials to group acrobatics. Advanced acting and directing students paired up for a series of scenes in progress, lifting the curtain on the creative process. Budding improv comedians enacted scenes based on audience prompts. Young playwrights performed scenes they had written, and songwriters performed original works. 

The next morning they assembled once more at Toitoi for the final performances and farewells, the previous week’s anxious excitement replaced by fatigued camaraderie. “I love the community. Everyone’s very supportive. It’s a safe vibe,” a student remarked. 

Voice students gave an auditory performance before showreels from the screen acting classes allowed students to see themselves on the big screen. To end, a highlight reel from the week was shown, as well as a short film from the media team, launching the school’s new patreon. [That’s a hint!]

Exhausted and filled up with friendship and potential, rangatahi journeyed homeward holding the light of NYDS magic in their hearts, enthusiastic to continue performing and creating.


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