By Ben Doy
Q Theatre’s 2016 Matchbox Season is presenting the innovative, masked comedy Leilani, which begins tonight (August 4) in Auckland.
A devised comedic melodrama drawing inspiration from Commedia Dell’Arte and the streets of New Zealand, Leilani is brought to you by Mahuika Theatre Company with direction from mask aficionado Pedro Ilgenfritz.
I had a chat with Leilani's producer Gracie-Rose Kay and found out what it's all about.
How did you get involved with the Mahuika Theatre Company?
So we were all graduates from Unitech. A core of the cast were all in the same year; so we graduated in 2014 and Aymee Karaitiana was a year above us and graduated in 2013. Pedro Ilgenfritz is a senior lecturer there, so we all spent three years together working through the techniques and we loved it. So it happened quite organically.
Where did the idea of Leilani come about?
The show kind of evolved through through two years of character development and workshopping. So all we had to start with was the masks, so we gave them different characters and different situations. We started off with six masks and did some workshops, and then developed five more. Leilani the mask was one of the newer masks we had, so we had this sweet, naive Samoan girl that we fell in love with. That kind of started the idea, and then 3 months ago we started developing the show specifically and now we’re about to open it.
So you all had input when designing the masks?
Yeah. So Pedro and Kate Lang, they developed six masks. Then as the company formed we then found characters through those six masks that realised those weren’t the faces for them. So then we went on a secondary development process to find faces and collaborate together to find the new masks that we now have.
How many people are involved in the production?
There are three actors and nine characters. Irasa Siave plays Leilani, while Natasha Daniels and Aymee Karaitiana play four masks each. Pedro is the Artistic Director, I’m the Producer, and Elizabeth Turner is Assistant Director, Stage Manager and Production Assistant. Then we’ve got a production team as well with Khalid Parker who’s the Production Manager, and a few others as well. It developed from quite a small core team to quite a large production.
How have the rehearsals been going?
They've been going really good! Given the style of theatre is really demanding and we created the show through improvisation and character development, it’s required a lot of time from the girls. So they’ve been rehearsing 4 - 5 days a week for three months. It’s been very full on for them.
What’s it like working with Pedro Ilgenfritz?
He’s definitely a character. He’s originally from Brazil so he’s got quite a dynamic personality. But he’s also very direct and charming, and he’s always searching for that spark and energy.
What other projects have you got in the pipeline?
We’re looking at touring Leilani. We think it’ll work quite well going to schools and take it to different parts of New Zealand and then looking at international as well. We did have an offer to go to Italy in September, but given the turnaround of this show we kind of thought we’d leave it this time but it could be an option for next year.
But we might do something with the Fringe festival next year and potentially collaborating with other artists. All sorts of exciting ideas and brainstorms at the moment.
Thursday Aug 4 - Saturday Aug 13
Q Theatre, Auckland
Tickets via Q Theatre