Maori melodies


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

Dramatic works involving indigenous people usually skew to the tragic and serious issue-related. The most recognizable work depicting contemporary Maori life under rather dour circumstances is the 1994 film “;Once Were Warriors.”;





        » Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage

» When: 8 and 10 p.m. today and May 8, 2 p.m. tomorrow and May 9, 4 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday and May 7


» Tickets: $25 general, $20 for students, seniors and military ($20 and $15 tickets available for advance purchase)


» Info: 521-9699 or hsblinks.com/91




But Tawata Productions is trying to present other perspectives of life in Aotearoa, aka New Zealand. The 9-year-old Maori theater company started by writer Hone Kouka has brought three of his company's works to Hawaii in the past and now brings us the intimate “;He Reo Aroha (Words of Love),”; described as a “;two-person boutique Maori musical.”;

Written by co-producer Miria George and Jamie McCaskill, the play stars McCaskill and Kali Kopae as lovers whose common passion for music bonds them even as their life paths take them apart from each other.

According to an e-mail from George in New Zealand, she and McCaskill “;have rewritten the entire play and are going to premiere it in Hawaii. ... (And) we're very excited to see how the show is going to go down!”;

If the past is any indication, the production should do well here. It has garnered favorable response since touring last year in New Zealand and parts of Australia. Tawata Productions also brought Kouka's two previous stage productions “;Waiora”; (1999) and “;The Prophet”; to Hawaii three years ago.

“;A lot of Maori theater in New Zealand is very issues-based,”; said Kouka (also via e-mail). “;It therefore tends to have quite serious dramatic tones. We wanted to create a work that was lighter and showed the celebratory side of being Maori.”;

Kouka said the descriptive phrase of “;boutique Maori musical”; accurately sums up what “;He Reo Aroha”; is about.

“;It is a sweet slice of two young people searching for love, realizing what they had together really was 'true love.' It's a simple story told through original song and korero (dialogue), with an array of affecting characters,”; all played by McCaskill and Kopae.

The music, composed by McCaskill, Kopae and Hone Hurihanganui, mixes Maori and English lyrics, “;moving from the most beautiful ballads, to 'Flight of the Conchords'-type tunes (referring to the popular NZ music-comedy duo), to traditional Maori waiata.”;