Stage Challenge is an annual stage performance competition for secondary school students. It was first held in 1992. Performances are directed and choreographed by students, who also manage lighting, music, costumes, make-up, props and rehearsals. An important aspect of the event is its drug- and alcohol-free status.
Stage Challenge participants are encouraged to get their thrills from performance rather than drugs and alcohol. Manager Alice Larmer has said: ‘That’s what Stage Challenge teaches … How to get a natural high without having to turn to drugs and alcohol, keeping those friendships alive, using those life skills that you’ve learned.’1
Around 16,000 students from 200 schools participate in Stage Challenge. Regional competitions are held and winners from these compete for the ultimate prize. Since 2005 primary- and intermediate-school students have been able to participate in J Rock, a non-competitive version of Stage Challenge.
National Youth Drama School
The National Youth Drama School is a week-long series of theatre, film, dance and songwriting classes for 14–19 year olds held in Havelock North during the April school holidays. It is aimed at students considering a career in the performing arts.
There are a number of youth theatre companies in New Zealand. Auckland’s Massive Theatre Company (founded in 1991) mounts shows and runs free workshops for young people. Te Rākau Hua o te Wao Tapu Trust (1989) is a Wellington-based company that introduces at-risk young people to theatre and kapa haka (Māori traditional performance). Other youth theatre companies include Northland Youth Theatre (1984), Nelson Youth Theatre (2000), Hawke’s Bay Youth Theatre (2003) and Long Cloud Youth Theatre (2005) based at Whitirea Community Polytechnic in Wellington.
The Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival was first run in 1991. It is a competition for secondary-school students who act in and direct short excerpts from plays by William Shakespeare. Regional festivals are held first and the winners go on to compete in the national festival. Each year around 24 participating students are selected to attend a study tour of the United Kingdom.
Film-maker and actor Taika Waititi began his career at the Young and Hungry festival. He appeared at the 1995 event in Dave Armstrong’s Fast food.
The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre (founded in 1994) showcases the acting and theatre production skills of 15–25 year olds. Each year three plays are commissioned from emerging playwrights and these are performed during the festival.
Capital E is a creative arts centre for children in Wellington. It contains a digital production suite where children can make television programmes, movies, video games, music and soundtracks. Capital E is also home to the National Theatre for Children, a company of adult actors who perform shows for children.