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Source: New Zealand Fringe Festival

The New Zealand Fringe Festival has chosen Te Auaha, a multi-level “cluster of creativity” and the HQ for creative programmes at Whitireia and WelTec – as its hub for the 2020 festival. Works by three Applied Arts graduates from Whitireia will also be showcased at the Hub.

Malea Nicolson is beyond delighted she and her cast have the opportunity to again perform her graduation piece, this time as part of the NZ Fringe Festival.

“It was such a surprise to be selected to perform in the Fringe,” said the nearly 22-year-old. “It’s a great chance to change it up a bit, and really, performing it only twice for our graduation didn’t feel like enough!” 

A musical theatre major, Malea Nicolson is one of three 2019 graduates from the Bachelor of Applied Arts programme at Whitireia selected to take part in Lift Off, a series of performances which showcases the best of new graduate talent entering New Zealand’s creative scene. 

Malea’s own piece is a musical theatre show that uses popular songs, sometimes with altered lyrics, to explore the coming-out story of a teenage girl – a story based on Malea’s own. Her 15-minute piece will be performed alongside two other short pieces by dancer Beth Sammons, and performing arts graduate, Sina Esera, at Te Auaha March 3 – 7. 

But the graduates’ three-part show is far from the only association of the Fringe and Te Auaha this festival. 

While the Fringe has previously used Te Auaha as a performance venue and pop-up ticketing site, this year it will also be the Festival’s main hub. A venue for the Fringe Awards, various workshops, forums and networking events, as well as the FAFF club, featuring a variety of late-night entertainments.

Te Auaha’s venue manager Will Harris said he is “very pleased to see the venue operating as a home and hub for the 2020 Fringe artists”.

“Our two theatres, Tapere Nui and Tapere Iti, are state-of-the-art venues that have hosted many top national and international acts. 

“More than that, Whitireia is a world-class tertiary education institution delivering leading programmes in creativity and innovation. Te Auaha has created a vibrant creative hub in the heart of Wellington, which makes it perfect to host the Fringe.” 

The Fringe’s Festival Director Sasha Tilly said they will utilise as much of the five-level building as possible. 

“In 2018 we had seven events across the two theatre spaces, expanding to 11 events in three spaces in 2019, and now we have a whopping 27 events across four spaces at Te Auaha.
“The team at Te Auaha have been so open and generous with our vision of a Fringe hub. The more that happens at Te Auaha each year, the more others want to be involved the following year. It’s really cool to be around that growth and to help facilitate it,” she said.

“A huge part of the Fringe’s kaupapa is supporting and celebrating our emerging artists, and what better way to do that than placing ourselves right alongside them on their journey?” 

Having access to purpose-built theatre spaces is a major attraction, as is Te Auaha’s location in the heart of Wellington’s artistic district. However, Sasha says she also loves the collaboration from having students and professionals mingle. 

“Te Auaha brings this great mash-up of students, tutors, and industry professionals,” said Sasha. “Students and tutors get access to a wide range of local, national and international creative work of all flavours. For them it provides the opportunity to connect with artists and see there is something to aim for – that there’s a community there and a valid pathway to a career in the arts. 

“It’s so exciting when they collide, in the bar or backstage, or just generally around the building. It creates a buzz of creative energy that spills out to audiences too. It’s pretty cool.”

Malea, who three years ago moved from Sydney’s Northern Beaches – where sport is prioritized over the arts – to Wellington particularly to do the Applied Arts degree at Whitireia based at Te Auaha  – says she’s very much looking forward to being part of that creative energy and sharing the spaces she knows so well. 

“Te Auaha has two insanely awesome theatres with amazing lighting rigs and open, versatile spaces with great acoustics. There’s always so much happening on each level of the building – dancing, recording music, radio casting, production admin, computer studies… It’s crazy that all these different artforms can come together in one building, along with all the lovely social spaces to hang around in. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

And the Fringe’s Festival Director Sasha Tilly is very much looking forward to seeing what Te Auaha and its students will offer during this festival. 

“I’m always impressed with the high caliber of work I see coming out of the school. You can really see the passion and care coming from the tutors and feeding into what the students do. And not only the performance courses – I’ve been loving the things I’ve seen from the jewellers and the special effects makeup too. 

“We’re really lucky to have a place to foster our emerging talents here in Wellington, and part of Fringe’s job is to help them stay here and continue to grow,” said Sasha.

The NZ Fringe Festival runs from 28 February – 21 March.