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20 Jul 2018

Toi Wāhine Festival celebrates women’s creativity

Hamilton’s Toi Wāhine festival kicks off for the first time in August as this year marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. The festival is all about celebrating women’s creativity and ideas.

Throughout the 11 day event, festival attendees will be able to experience the diverse talent of New Zealand women through music, film, workshops and many other mediums. From the past and from the present.

The Chapel Perilous has a cast of 15 actors and one pianist.

Some workshops will also cover some of the issues women may have faced at work or at home. Inequality, domestic violence and even health issues. The events will take place at the Meteor, Clarence Street theatre and Waikato museum.

New Zealand entertainer Ali Harper is bringing her show, New York New York, to the festival. Her longtime friend and well known Hamilton show director, David Sidwell will be accompanying her on the piano.

Events as part of the Toi Wāhine Festival will be held at the Meteor, Clarence Street Theatre and Waikato Museum.

The duo will appear twice at the festival. In September they are heading off to perform in New York at the famous cabaret club, Don’t Tell Mama. New York New York celebrates “everything fabulous” about New York. “I love it, it feeds my soul,” Harper said.

The Toi Wāhine Festival will run from August 1-11.

The Hamilton shows will include locals Gwen Lyon and Pamela Wallace. “I thought it would be really nice to incorporate those women in the show as well,” Harper said. Harper has been to Hamilton many times before including playing the lead role in Mamma Mia! for the Hamilton Operatic Society. She loves performing at Clarence Street theatre.

Gaye Poole, senior lecturer in theatre studies at the University of Waikato, is director of another show, The Chapel Perilous. This show will be performed by her students.

Clarence Street theatre manager, Jason Wade asked Poole if she would like to contribute something to the festival. They decided that The Chapel Perilous was the right choice given the festival’s theme.

The production was written by the late Dorothy Hewett and follows Sally Banner over a period of 40 years from her high school days until becoming a world famous poet. The students have previously performed this show at the university and loved the experience.

Although the play contains music to help tell the story it’s not a musical. There is a cast of 15 actors and one pianist. Both of the performances will keep the same cast except for the lead. “It’s very much an ensemble piece where everyone is important and plays a key role in the play,” Poole said.

“This is the first festival of this kind in Hamilton. The plan is to do the festival each year. It’s really, really useful for young performers to perform in different spaces and try to generate different audiences.”

Jackie Clarke from the Lady Killers, has been performing for over 30 years and is looking forward to the festival’s début. “It’s a chance to sing songs that are dear to our hearts and we can hopefully create some real pindrop moments as well as let rip with the powerhouse singing that is our trademark,” she said. “We’re in great company to be part of Toi Wāhine and it feels so timely to be celebrating women in the arts, although any time is a good time for that, right?”

The festival will run from August 1-11.

Story by Jesse Wood – Stuff