HomeNewsUCOL Te Pūkenga Performing Arts ākonga rake in awards at National TheatreFest

UCOL Te Pūkenga Performing Arts ākonga rake in awards at National TheatreFest

By UCOL on Thursday, 05 October 2023

UCOL Te Pūkenga Performing Arts ākonga with their awards

UCOL Te Pūkenga Performing Arts ākonga from the Wairarapa campus achieved an incredible feat, placing second at the National TheatreFest with their production, ‘Say my Name'.

The 20-minute performance, which was created by the Performing Arts Te Amorangi ākonga (learners) for an assessment, centred around the theme of tuakiritanga (identity).

Performing Arts lecturer Kiri Riwai-Couch said their performance at the nationals in Christchurch in September earned the ākonga an impressive haul of awards.

“The entire night was wonderful and we are so proud of our ākonga for this achievement! Not only did they place second overall, they took home three awards including Distinctive Emerging Talent, Best Māori/Pacific Production, and Best Adult Production. Their production poster for ‘Say my Name’ also ranked third in the poster competition.

Maioha Riwai-Couch, one of the ākonga involved in the production, said the entire night was an awesome experience.

“None of us have ever done anything like it before. Our tutors really pushed us to do the best we could and encouraged us to share the story with pride and conviction. It was really scary and really amazing."

Alongside this, Kiri Riwai-Couch was also announced as the new Cultural Advisor for Theatre NZ and received a scholarship to attend a theatre summer programme.

Before making it to the national competition, the production ‘Say my Name’ was performed live at various high schools and organisations throughout the Wairarapa, says Kiri Riwai-Couch. 

“It really moved our audiences and we are still receiving invitations to do more performances. One teacher even told us it should be showcased in every high school across the country!"

“It has been a privilege to be able to leave this legacy for our community and our country – the challenge of learning someone’s name and saying it right, it’s really important and not that hard,” said Maioha Riwai-Couch.

Say my name poster

At one of their productions, the ākonga caught the attention of the President of Theatre New Zealand, Paul Percy.
“Paul reached out to me and asked if we would be keen to perform at the Wairarapa TheatreFest,” said Kiri Riwai-Couch. “It just so happened that our production fit the TheatreFest criteria perfectly. We polished it up a little and presented it in August.”

They won several awards at the Wairarapa TheatreFest, including Magic Moment for Individual Dance Sequences and the Distinction Award for Adult Production. It also received a glowing review from judge and renowned New Zealand actor, Phil Peleton. 

This victory earned them a spot at the regional competition in Pahiatua and Wellington, before leading them to the National TheatreFest.
With only eight weeks left of the programme, for now, Kiri Riwai-Couch says the ākonga are focusing on their final assessments before graduation. 

Director of Wairarapa Campus, Carrie Mckenzie says it is a fitting way to finish off the year and the diploma.

“These ākonga have worked so hard to achieve this success. They and their kaiako (teachers) are such an important part of our campus and we know they will go on to do great things.”