Te Rauhiringa Brown was captivated by hearing the words of William Shakespare performed in te reo Māori and inspired her to excel in a career in the screen industry.
TVNZ personality and performer Te Rauhiringa Brown remembers the moment when she was inspired to become an actor and tell stories on the stage and screen.
It happened ten years ago while Te Rauhiringa was studying media in Auckland. She went to see a Māori performing arts company staging a te reo Māori version of the epic William Shakespeare play Troilus and Cressida, before they took the production to the home of Shakespeare, The Globe Theatre in London.
Te Rauhiringa, a fluent Māori speaker, was mesmerised by the entire production, and was greatly impacted by hearing the words of William Shakespeare being spoken in te reo Māori.
“I just sat there, blown away. It was the largest Māori production that I had ever seen. Most of the people on stage were not even actors but te reo Māori advocates that were proficient in the language,” she explains.
“They executed this Shakespeare play so well that it made me want to become a performer, to work in theatre at the highest level because it was another platform to share and express my love for te reo Māori.”
This week, Te Rauhiringa’s journey has come full circle. She will be acting in a reading of a te reo Māori version of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet, Entitled Rōmeo rāua ko Hureita, the performance will be held at Te Pou Theatre in Auckland during its annual Koanga Festival.
The reading is directed by acting legend and te Maori advocate Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand.
“It felt special walking into the rehearsal room for the first time, to be around beautiful people with beautiful minds who had a passion for speaking te reo Māori and bringing to life one of the most famous love stories in the world,” she says.
That moment made Te Rauhiringa realise how far she has come in her career in media, theatre,TV and film. Her passion for te reo Maori has driven her throughout her career to ensure that it is heard and felt across many diverse media platforms.
The 30-year-old grew up attending kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori-language immersion schools.
She started her TV career at 19 as a presenter on te reo Māori children’s show Pūkana and has been a regular presenter on various kids’ shows. She has since become an actress and writer of theatre shows in both English and Māori and has travelled her plays across the country.
The all-rounder has also acted in films. She joined TVNZ in 2018 as a journalist and worked on Te Karere before joining Seven Sharp. This year, she was asked to juggle her role on the week-night current affairs show with being a fill in weather presenter.
Te Rauhiringa, whose iwi are Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Apakura and Ngāti Kahu, is currently on maternity leave from TVNZ. Fourteen weeks ago, she gave birth to her third son, Taimaririkura; a little brother to Te Māpuna, 13, and Te Rangikohea, 9.
Little Taimaririkura accompanied his parents to his very first rehearsals during their time with the Rōmeo rāua ko Hurieta cast. Te Rauhiringa’s partner, fellow actor Mauri Oho Stokes, is also cast in the reading.
“We hope he will follow in his parents’ footsteps and has that spark to tell stories,” she says.
Director Ward-Lealand has recently finished starring in a sold out season of the Shakespeare classic King Lear for Auckland Theatre Company. By directing a te reo Māori version of Romeo and Juliet she is combining her passion for Shakespeare and her love for the Māori language.
“What I most appreciate about combining the Māori language with Shakespeare is how the writer used metaphor, which is widely used in te reo Māori as well,” she says.
“Shakespeare’s language is also full of references to the natural world. In that way, te reo Māori seems the perfect language in which to translate Shakespeare into. Te reo Māori is connected to the natural world, and that’s what I love.”
Romeo and Juliet was translated into Māori by acclaimed translator Te Haumihiata Mason. The book of the translation was released in August. Other te reo Māori translations of Shakespeare’s plays include The Merchant of Venice, Othello and Julius Caesar, by Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones, a series of love sonnets by Dr Merimeri Penfold, and Mason’s translation of Troilus and Cressida.
“Shakespearean English is the bridge between te reo Māori and te reo Pākehā,” says Te Rauhiringa.
“His characters speak with so many similes and metaphors. It’s not the kind of English that you hear every day. When I watched the Māori translation of a Shakespeare play for the first time, it made perfect sense to me.”
She says that it’s perfect timing that the very special reading of Rōmeo rāua ko Hurieta will be performed during Te Wiki o te reo Māori – Māori Language Week.
“This week celebrates the te reo Māori advocates who paved the way for us. For me, Māori Language Week is when I get to live in an ideal society where te reo Māori is everywhere. But I dream that our nation will one day be celebrating our beautiful language every single week of the year.”
Rōmeo rāua ko Hurieta will be performed Friday, 15 September at 7pm at Te Pou Theatre, Henderson, Auckland.
This is public interest journalism funded by NZ on Air.