Duffy Theatre Mayhem

Through reading books, Sienna Maile learns about life in her native Tonga, with a little help from the librarian (Antonia Stehlin) who’s dressed for the part, during the Duffy Theatre visit to Ōtaki School, which encouraged the children to participate.

It was high jinks and a little bit of mayhem at Ōtaki School when the Duffy Theatre group visited for their annual performance.

The session began with some warm-up games — a guessing game Who am I? and Simon Says! — oldies but greatly enjoyed by the children. Then it was into the action.

Sienna, (Sienna Maile) doesn’t like reading, after all she can get everything she needs to know on television or her ipad. So it was up to TJ (TJ Misa) to convince her books are great — you can read them anytime anywhere, whenever she wanted to look-up something or settle for a read.

“Best of all, reading books creates your imagination” TJ told her. “Without imagination we’d all be zombies.”

So it was off to the local library, where the librarian (Antonia Stehlin) helped TJ find some books.

“The library has a secret code system,” he told Sienna and she learnt about the Dewy Decimal system for numbering and classifying of books — fiction and nonfiction and how to find books in categories.

So Sienna learnt about the library and using books for information and fun, and soon had her nose in a book, reading. She spent a lot of time reading books and best of all she started getting top marks for her stories at school — as her imagination grew and she also got her mum (Antonia) into reading and using the library too.

The performance ended with everyone singing the Duffy song, which includes the line “Duffy kids can read around the world”.

The production began with four weeks of rehearsals in January before the actors set out around New Zealand to perform at all the Duffy schools. They finish in November. All have performing arts degrees from Wellington or Auckland drama schools.

The Duffy Theatre is one arm of the Alan Duff Books in Homes Trust operating in low – one and two decile schools. Both Ōtaki and St Peter Chanel schools belong to the scheme, which is aimed at getting books into the homes of many children where they mostly wouldn’t have books. 

F_R_RotaryR_LionsAt Ōtaki School both the Rotary Club of Ōtaki and Ōtaki Lions contribute sums to cover the $20,000 a year which gives every child at least four books a year, plus visits from Duffy Heroes — people who have achieved in sports, arts, and even senior college students to speak to the children. There are also special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day awards. There is a Books for Babies scheme as well where pre-school siblings get a book each birthday until they start school.