It’s February 2017. A time to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards creating a culture of diversity, equality and acceptance.

With the annual Auckland Pride Festival coming up, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate identity and entertainment, which brings us to the theatrical poetry show Loud & Queer.

Presented by Breaking Boundaries, Loud & Queer reveals the realities of the LGBTIQ community in modern day Auckland. Using a range of artistic devices such as spoken word, theatre, multimedia and comedy, along with the radical voices of LGBTIQ poets, Loud & Queer is nothing like you’ve seen before.

I got the chance to chat with Manu Vaea, one of the youngest performers in the show. Manu is also and an alumnus of the Rising Voices poetry movement, as well as an active member of the FAFSWAG arts collective in South Auckland. (‘FAFSWAG’ combines the Samoan term for ‘third gender’ and slang for ‘style’).

Here he shares with us insight on the production for Loud & Queer, his involvement in poetry and what being a performer is all about.

Loud & Queer
is said to incorporate a lot of spoken word; what do you think was the inspiration to go in a poetic direction?

The decision stems from the fact that all the performers are primarily poets. A number of us are actually Rising Voices alumni. So I feel that it was only natural this is the direction the show will take.

To gather insight for our readers wishing to pursue the performing arts, how often and how long have rehearsals for Loud & Queer been?

Oh, rehearsals are a weekly thing and go on for three to five hours. We were really fortunate in a sense that the show is geared towards poetry, which gave performers the opportunity to do/practice things on their own. This is because we would usually have our own stanzas or solo pieces memorise. So, I think compared to other shows our rehearsal times aren’t as crazy as you’d expect or see.

You’re also heavily involved in the artistic culture in Auckland as a member of the Rising Voices Poetry movement and FAFSWAG arts collective; what enticed you to be part of these organisations? And what do you typically do within them?

Being part of these art collectives and movements was something that happened naturally. I was drawn to FAFSWAG because their practices and ethics are something that I really vibed with and you know, they just have really dope aesthetics. My involvement with Rising Voices came about through my participation in their Slam in 2015 and all the alumni are honestly just really talented. I’m an active member of FAFSWAG and am in its new sub-collective, which has exciting stuff coming soon.

Loud & Queer explores many topics, mainly queer and trans identities in one of New Zealand’s biggest cities; what do you hope this theme will bring about for the LGBTIQ community?

I think this show represents a realness that is what the LGBT community looks like, as opposed to an overall message. In saying this, I feel that the show will be commentary on how, in many ways, our community isn’t as vibrant and accepting as we’d like to think.

The lifestyle of a performer also involves being able to deal with the pressures and stress that come along with the spotlight; what advice would you have to the youth about remaining resilient?

Resilience? It’s something that develops over time. However, I feel that just being conscious of those around you and where you are, within yourself at that point in time is what’s important. People will always have opinions, naturally, but I guess you are responsible for yourself and your own happiness. Also, talk to people, ask people for help, vent, alleviate yourself of things often so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

The poetry of the show is said to take place on stage like an argument; could you share with us more information on the storyline and this particular approach?

Feeding into what I said before, the show feels argumentative because all us performers as individuals come from very different backgrounds. So, as we began to unpack things that affect the LGBT community, we noticed that we had completely different opinions and views. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it became apparent that maybe the only thing that we all had in common was being queer.

What core qualities do you feel a performer needs to effectively capture an audience?

Speaking as someone who hasn’t been performing for too long, I think being able to draw something real from yourself is important. I guess it’s because if I feel a performer can’t find something they can relate to in the content they’re performing, then how can they expect the audience to reciprocate whatever feeling or message they’re trying to get out there?

What are you hoping to achieve with your work in the future?

I’m pretty simple. I just want to make great sh*t that I’m content with and that I feel represents myself and my ideologies.

As a youth it can be difficult to gain recognition when next to so many experienced individuals, so as wisdom for our fellow readers, what did you do to help propel you to where you are now?

I guess I was just pretty honest with myself and others. Through that I was able to establish my strengths and manage to maintain an image that was very much mine. I consider myself to be pretty polarising so what you see is really what you get. I’ve also never been afraid of what can go wrong, because something almost always does, so why not do it?


Loud & Queer plays Auckland’s Basement Theatre, 14th – 17th February. Click here for bookings.