Felix the Fearless Dog wants to help bullied kids in Rotorua

Felix the Fearless Dog dress rehearsal

Awatea Heripo Waiariki doesn’t have a lot of time for sleep.

The Rotorua 19-year-old, who commutes to Tauranga where he is studying law at the University of Waikato, helps look after his younger brother and is also starring in the title role in Felix the Fearless Dog, which plays at the Blue Baths this school holidays.

“Studying law has prepared my brain well for learning scripts . . . You have to be able to retain a lot of information.”

Waiariki caught the acting bug when his Rotorua Lakes High School drama teacher “Mrs Harris” shoulder-tapped him for her class.

His interest in the law goes further back.

“I’ve been fascinated by justice and the law since I was a young child, and it’s a privilege to be studying it now.”

Felix the Fearless Dog is a family-friendly stage show with important messages that are close to Waiariki’s heart.

Part of the script is in te reo Māori, and while Waiariki is a fluent speaker, he says it doesn’t matter whether the show’s audiences speak the language.

“It’s very accessible, the audience understands everything perfectly”.

At the core of the story, as with last year’s successful show, Buttercup’s Big Break is a message of self-belief and anti-bullying.

Waiariki was bullied at school and says it was especially vicious online.

His strong whānau relationships and his drama teacher helped him through, but he believes there needs to be more support for young people.

One of the lines in the play sums up how he wants bullied kids to feel: “You are amazing, you are brave, you are strong and let nobody tell you otherwise.”

That message of love and support for young people is behind a larger initiative spearheaded by Jo Romanes, managing director of The Blue Baths, who is leveraging the success of the performances to think bigger.

The result is the Muddy Moa Charitable Trust, which aims to share positive messages through stage and story to children and schools both locally and beyond.

“The trust’s mission is to educate kids through theatre. The message will always be the same – to give kids confidence and reassurance in order to make them feel good about themselves and to encourage them to show kindness and understanding towards others”.

Already the trust has the support of One Foundation, and Darlene Mohekey who is not only the show’s writer and Blue Baths creative director, but also serves on the trust’s board along with Nicky Old, Natasha Hall and Romanes.

Students from several local schools are attending the term sessions this week, but there will be the chance for the public to watch the show throughout the July school holidays.

“Our actors are amazing and have featured in everything from Shortland Street to The Voice Australia, so it’s a wonderful show for the entertainment value alone, but what’s really important to us is recognising the value of theatre for opening kids’ eyes and hearts to other possibilities and helping them through tough times.”

Waiariki can testify to that. Last year his beloved father passed away unexpectedly when Waiariki was performing in another show.

“It came out of nowhere, he was in Waikato Hospital and he died three days later.”

Waiariki says acting helped him through that painful time.

“Falling back on the art distracted my mind and gave me something to be focused on”.

He hopes Felix the Fearless Dog and the Muddy Moa Charitable Trust can help other young people find a way through their own tough times.

“Sometimes things aren’t as they seem. It’s important to give kids the tools to see that there can be another way.”

Felix the Fearless Dog
School Holiday shows run every day (except Sunday, July 14)
10.30am at The Blue Baths in Rotorua
Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online www.bluebaths.co.nz
The show is suitable for all ages from pre-schoolers to the elderly.
For more information call 07 350 2119.

You can read the full Rotorua Daily Post article here.