While Basement Theatre is known as a launching pad and home to many emerging and rangatahi theatre-makers, they’re still often tasked with self-producing their own work as independents rather than being held and resourced to simply be artists. This is one of the harsh realities of our sector, a space where creative freedom is compromised by administration. The hustle of the emerging practitioner fueled by enthusiasm and passion alone.
But every so often, the likes of programmes, initiatives or festivals carrying the burden of producing for the artists comes along. The likes of Auckland Theatre Company’s Here & Now programme (formerly known as The Next Big Thing) and Young and Hungry, once staples of our artistic ecosystem. And we can’t forget Massive Theatre Company regularly doing its part too, as well as Ngā Rangatahi Toa’s Manawa Ora which continues to grow strong.
These programmes shapeshift and change, sometimes disappearing, sometimes returning in new forms, sometimes having brief lifetimes. But always filled with the promise of a new generation of voices.
On Tuesday, Tuatara Collective opened their HAU festival with Hine Te Rēhia. Named after a Māori atua/deity of the performing arts, Hine Te Rēhia is driven with purposeful intent, showcasing an all-wahine lineup with a full BIPOC cast, feels in keeping with the vital voices, pairing four teina artists with two tuakana artists. A project featuring poetry, songs, movement and original monologues, as well as haka elements and traditional Pasifika dance, resulting in surprise after surprise. A cast making the show they want to make, telling the stories they want to tell, speaking urgently to their desires and feelings and dreams of the world. We should all be so lucky to be given so much agency so early on our practices. We should all be so lucky to witness their truths.
As I left the theatre on opening night, the undeniable necessity of supported emerging programmes felt clear to me. That particular energy that fresh emerging makers bring to the space that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Shows like Hine Te Rēhia are often simply seen as a platform, often relegated to the category of youth arts, which completely misunderstands their place as the backbone of independent theatre. And, more importantly, that they provide the most accurate way of using art to take a city’s pulse. The best lens into the future of our country.
In 2022, during a time where social progress feels under threat, and the bodies of women and queer people questioned, it feels like a beacon of hope to be nurturing and showcasing tomorrow’s leading artists on our wee stage at Basement Theatre.