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With sold-out shows like, The Wizard of Otāhuhu, Mirror Mirror and Sinarella, Pacific theatre collective Sau E Siva Creatives have dominated the Auckland school-holiday entertainment program for nine years.
They recently began rehearsing for their next production Alatini, a pan-Pacific re-telling of the classic story, Aladdin, for the Auckland Arts Festival.
But nearly two weeks deep into rehearsals, Alatini Director Troy Tu’u had to share the heartbreaking news with the cast and crew, “I had a meeting with the Auckland Arts Festival. The whole entire festival has been cancelled.”
Covid had struck once again, the show had already been delayed twice. W0ith Omicron now blazing its way through the community, the country had shifted to the Red light traffic setting, sparking a series of cancellations around the country.
For Tu’ua, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“We had a few tears here and there,” he confessed.
“Myself, trying to fight back tears, trying to stand strong for our young ones.”
But he and the Sau E Siva team were determined that the show had to go on for the cast of 53.
“I guess it was how we bounced back from that rehearsal,” says Tu’ua.
“It was like, cool. Let’s shift from this space, from this energy. And let’s do what we do best and let’s sing and let’s chant and let’s dance our way out of this and continue what we love to do.”
Their Auckland Arts Festival debut was a big deal for the small theatre group, it marked the first time in nine years they had secured major funding for their production.
“We had set a good track record of the work we’ve been doing out of our own pockets,” Tu’ua says.
“[We were] hoping that we sell our box office so we could pay for the venue, pay our cast members and pay ourselves so people could eat at the end of the production – not just go home empty handed.”
But with the financial backing of the festival now gone, they’ll have to work even harder to get the show to the big stage.
Sau E Siva will now have to shell out to fund many of the behind-the-scenes roles like stage and sound technicians, lighting operators and costuming.
“That’s our next challenge,” Tu’ua acknowledges.
“We’ve got dates and we’ve got a season penciled in, now it’s trying to find some support.
“We are talking with a few organizations at the moment and they’re willing to jump on board and support our work.”
Unlike the last time the show was cancelled, this time the team were determined that rehearsals should continue.
Fellow Sau E Siva creative Idalene Ati says they’ve readjusted well to their new practice schedule under the red light settings, cutting down rehearsal numbers and preparing the younger ones for future changes.
“If you feel sick, you don’t come into the space – stay in isolation if you have to,” Ati emphasises.
“We record all the sets that we’ve learnt throughout the night, we put it onto our private page. And then from then on, everyone just learns it from home.
“Setting a new atmosphere is a new learning curve, but also a good way of knowing what’s there to expect in the future.”
Audiences have sorely missed these community theatre staples, but they can now look forward to October when Alatini will finally grace the stage.
Tu’ua says they look forward to meeting them there, “no one can tell these stories the way we do,” he enthuses.
“If you see the young ones’ faces, you see them excel in rehearsals and you see them sing and dance their hearts out – they’re the reason why we keep pushing.
“These young ones are the voices of the generations to come. And I just feel it’s a responsibility for us to create that platform for them.”
Quotes have edited for length and clarity