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Metro Arts — Tuesday 1 November

The First Prime Time Asian Sitcom + Shut Eye Giveaway! + D.A.M.N. + What's on this week!

Metro Arts — Tuesday 1 November

Nov 1, 2022 Metro Arts

Kia ora dear readers –

This week marks the premiere of The First Prime Time Asian Sitcom, Nahyeon Lee’s much anticipated debut as a playwright, following on from the success of her work in feature film Kāinga (official selection New Zealand International Film Festival 2022 & Melbourne International Film Festival 2022).

You can read Nahyeon’s conversation with fellow theatre-maker Nathan Joe (Scenes from a Yellow PerilGay Death Stocktake), in Metro’s Spring issue in which they discuss ambition in artmaking, Asianness, and upending the conventions of genre.

The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom (TFPAS) — which has been described as ‘anarchically cheeky, genre-messing black comedy’ — will see Q Theatre’s Loft transformed into a live TV studio. According to the show’s press release it ‘blazes with canned laughter and trash talk, disarming audiences to consider stereotypes, commodity culture — and what the hell ‘Pan Asian representation’ really means’.

TFPAS marks a return to Aotearoa for international star Dawn Cheong, perhaps best known to New Zealand audiences for her role in Mīria George’s The Night Mechanics, for which she received the 2017 Outstanding Performance award at the Wellington Theatre Awards. Dawn is joined by Uhyoung Choi — 최우영 (Scenes from a Yellow PerilShortland Street), and Toi Whakaari graduates Jess Hong (48 Nights on Hope StreetThe Brokenwood Mysteries), Ariadne Baltazar (Duffy TheatreKāinga), and Jehangir Homavazir (The Mourning AfterBatch).

This cast of established and up and coming talent is directed by Ahi Karunaharan, with whom I got in touch to learn more about his background and what, in the world of theatre, has been grabbing his attention and fuelling his creativity.


Kia ora Ahi. Can you introduce yourself briefly.

Kia Ora and Vanakkam. I’m a multi-disciplinary artist of Sri Lankan Tamil ancestry working across stage and screen. I was born in the UK, bred in NZ, and I’m a graduate of The New Zealand National School of Drama and Victoria University of Wellington.

My work interrogates memory, nostalgia and dislocation from a diaspora lens. From pioneering works for the South Asian community, I have presented works for companies locally as well as across the globe including Belvoir St Theatre, Tara Arts, Silo Theatre, Auckland Theatre Company.

How did you end up working in theatre?

I’d been putting on shows in our family living room for anyone who would watch and forcing all the kids in the neighbourhood to be in my very avante garde arthouse films. At school I was more interested in music but I performed in plays at the Tamil Society Cultural events. When I was studying at Otago University, I chanced upon a lunchtime theatre at Allen Hall and lied that I could operate lights and ended up operating for Jo Randerson’s Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong. Luckily for me that show only had one lighting state, so I got away with it.

I was mesmerised by live performance. I moved to Wellington, studied Theatre at Vic and then went to Toi [Whakaari: NZ Drama School]. My first paid gig in theatre was through my friend’s theatre company Tawata (who also produced my first solo show as an actor). Whilst at Tawata, I also worked at BATS Theatre and started to build my community. When I moved up to Auckland 12 years ago, I volunteered for Prayas Theatre and got an internship with Auckland Theatre Company which helped open up further opportunities to work in theatre full time.

How did you become involved with The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom and what was your interest in working on this project?

I went to the first playreading of The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom as part of Proudly Asian Theatre’s ‘Fresh Off The Page’ initiative. The following year it was programmed as part of the Breaking Ground Festival where it received a workshop when I was in Wellington remounting my show The Mourning After. During that time I was Artistic Associate for Silo Theatre, Sophie Roberts the artistic Director for the company offered the opportunity to direct the work. Having predominantly directed my own work, I was excited by how Nahyeon had explored identity politics through form and I jumped at the opportunity. New voices and home grown works are totally my jam.

What can we expect to see in TFPAS?

You can expect a rambunctious wild time. To tell you more will rob you of the surprises that await.
I can tell you that there will be an actual sitcom, canned laughter included.

What have been some of your most memorable theatre moments as an audience member and as a practitioner?

When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, directed by Shane Bosher will forever be etched in my memory as one of the most memorable theatre productions. That work has stayed with me for years. Robert Lepage’s five-hour extravaganza The Dragon’s Trilogy and the first transformation of the set is a moment of theatrical magic. Other memorable theatrical moments include Nina Nawalowalo’s Vula, Colleen Davis and Todd Emerson singing Anchor Me in Daffodils, the swirling saga TU based on Patricia Grace’s novel adapted and directed by Hone Kouka, Erina Daniels opening dance in Mīria George’s And What Remains, OMG! So many more. As a practitioner: when I directed my first full length play, Tea, and the full ensemble from various time periods met — that is still, to this day, a memorable moment for me.

Who and what inspires you as a director and a writer?

I get really inspired by music … a lot. I make playlists for plays I’m writing, directing, and for characters I’m playing. Music is my way into the work. In terms of creatives and artists that fuel my creativity, every work I see, and every text I read informs my practice in some way so I feel like my arts community inspires and fuels my creativity.

I’ve learned a lot from Mīria George and Hone Kouka as practitioners and they are forever creating pathways and platforms for other fellow artists and creating opportunities. I care about the story I’m telling. I love stories. I love the power of stories to affect change. I always hope that audience members can hear, receive, and understand something about themselves or about their lives that they weren’t thinking about when they came in.

What would you like to see more of in theatre in Aotearoa?

More home grown South Asian work, more queer kiwi work, more works that defy the conventions of traditional theatre and blur the line through form, new voices, communities we haven’t heard from. Resourcing and support to keep our creatives in the sector.

What would you like to see less of?

I don’t think we need to see less of anything at this stage. We’ve lost so much over the last two years so let’s make up for all that for now.

And finally, what other projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m directing Basmati Bitch written by Ankita Singh for Auckland Theatre Company next year and a new work for Pride Festival. I’m currently re-writing my latest work, a mixtape for maladies. There are two other shows that are not announced yet, but do keep an eye and ear out.

The First Prime Time Asian Sitcom plays at Q Theatre 3–27 November


Shut Eye Giveaway!


We have one double pass to give away to the Rialto Newmarket opening night & Film Talks event for Shut Eye, following its world premiere at the New Zealand Film Festival.

Shut Eye, writer/director Tom Levesque’s debut feature, follows a disconnected young woman who discovers the intriguing new world of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), an online phenomenon where streamers use sound therapy to connect with audiences across the globe. “Sound therapy such as ASMR can have a strong physiological effect for those who respond to it, facilitating deep relaxation. In Shut Eye we see this used to draw the lead character into a relationship with devastating consequences.”

Shut Eye will be screening in Auckland at Rialto cinemas on November 3, followed by Wellington’s The Roxy cinemas on 4 November. Screenings for Dunedin are to be confirmed. Tickets are available with Rialto cinemas here and The Roxy Cinemas.

Email before midday Wednesday to be in the draw!


Recommendation: D.A.M.N.


Dignity and Money Now (DAMN) presents:
Thursday 3 November @ Basement Theatre
From 7pm ‘til late

DAMN, an artist rights advocacy group I am involved with, is throwing a free party with music and kai from 7pm onwards. The aim of this event is to introduce the DAMN kaupapa to all practitioners across the arts and to invite anyone who wants to get involved in taking a grassroots approach to improving conditions for artists in Aotearoa to join.

Music from Lucky Lance, Polly Hill and Vercetti!





Antonia Prebble and Ryan O’Kane in North by Northwest


North by Northwest
ASB Waterfront Theatre
25 October–19 November 

Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
29 October 2022–30 January 2023

Thom Hinton: Spirit in the Mass
Paper Anniversary
31 October28 November 

Carl Green: Tulip Portraits
Allpress Studio
218 November 

Dr Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge:
Mā te horo nuku ka tūrangawaewae ai koe, To stand in place of the landscape
Corban Estate Arts Centre, Homestead Galleries
4 November11 December

Her heirlooms in my garden:
Quishile Charan, Cora-Allan, Debbie Harris, Hollie Ryan, Ashleigh Taupaki and Molly Timmins
Corban Estate Arts Centre, Homestead Galleries
4 November11 December 

Ann Shelton: A Lovers’ Herbal
5–26 November 2022

Pre-Loved, Re-Loved
Depot Artspace
5–29 November
(Online sales open the week of 7 November)

The Artist
Q Theatre – Rangatira
812 November

wiggling together, falling apart:
Hany Armanious, Dan Arps, Emerita Baik, Renée Bevan, Wendelien Bakker, Heidi Brickell, Xin Cheng, Stella Corkery, Yana Dombrowsky-M’Baye, Claudia Dunes, Erika Holm, Yukari Kaihori, Lucy Lord Campana, Nicholas Mangan, Lucy Meyle, Te Ara Minhinnick, Kate Newby and Jenny Palmer. Organised by Lucy Meyle & Victoria Wynne-Jones.
Michael Lett
9 November–10 December

Kete Aronui Film Club presents: The King Maker
Gus Fisher Gallery
10 November

The King of Taking
Q Theatre – Rangatira
1112 November

Improv Masala
Covert Theatre
11, 12, 18, 19 November

Music Therapy Week 2022
14–20 November 

Ko Ngā Wawata a Hina:
Heidi Brickell, Jalaina Hitchen, Te Ara Minhinnick, Neke Moa, Ming Ranginui, and Jade Townsend (a response to Wawata: Moon Dreaming, a new pukapuka by Dr Hinemoa Elder)
25 November–24 December

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Metro N°442 is Out Now.

In the Autumn 2024 issue of Metro we celebrate the best of Tāmaki Makaurau — 100 great things about life in Auckland, including our favourite florist, furniture store, cocktail, basketball court, tree, make-out spot, influencer, and psychic. The issue also includes the Metro Wine Awards, the battle over music technology company Serato, the end of The Pantograph Punch, the Billy Apple archives, a visit to Armenia, viral indie musician Lontalius, the state of fine dining, and the time we bombed West Auckland to kill a moth. Plus restaurants, movies, politics, astrology, and more.

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