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Smoke & Mirrors Project

By guest contributor Charlizza Harris

The Smoke & Mirrors Project is the brainchild of award winning playwright and youth development worker Charlizza Harris who has brought together elements of business, social enterprise, performing arts, youth development and leadership to create this social change movement.

The kaupapa underpinning the project is one that is close to home for every tutor, volunteer and performer involved. Youth suicide in our country is at an unacceptable high and we are committed to doing whatever we can to address this tragic reality. 

The Smoke & Mirrors story is based on recent Aotearoa research that illustrated key risk areas that link a young person to suicidal behaviour and action. These include, but are not limited to, a limited understanding of talents or natural gifts, disconnect to cultural identity and a lack of spiritual understanding and nurturing.  Some of the signs and symptoms include excessive drug and alcohol use, withdrawn/introverted, and overwhelming sadness and feelings of worthlessness.

The project was executed over a period of four months led by local youth workers and clinicians affiliating to Innovation Trust, YMCA Greater Wellington and Capital Church. The young people involved included a diverse group of high achievers and school leavers. In the three months leading up to the production, these young people participated in a series of workshops aimed at upskilling in performing arts, leadership, social marketing and cultural development.

The cast and production team was made up of Māori and Pacific young people between the ages of 12 – 24 who affiliate to the YMCA RAISE Up Programme, Taiohi Morehu and Capital Church Youth Groups.  

We had a broad and diverse support team of volunteers, clinicians, health, community and youth workers from Māori and Pacific cultural groups who ensured the ethos of the production reflected Māori kaupapa and relevant Pacific worldviews, best practise and was culturally safe and responsive for performers, production team, audiences and associated groups. 

The Smoke & Mirrors TOUR 2015 began In Masterton on 8 December and finished in Christchurch on the 18 December 2015.

The show reached six vulnerable communities throughout Aotearoa including Wellington, Masterton, Napier, Hastings, Tokoroa and Christchurch.  Feedback from audiences was extremely encouraging.

We’ve also had an overwhelming response to return to these communities, especially from school principals, church leaders and youth services.  We have agreed to take this show back to Masterton in March.

For more information contact charlizza@hotmail.co.nz.

Cast and crew of the Smoke and Mirrors Project.

Practising for the show.


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Covid-19 Update

Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.