Sunday, November 10, 2013

[pima.nius] MR: A New Play Tackles Youth Issues Headon

5:56 PM |

Media Release

A New Play Tackles Youth Issues Head-On

Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane – a story of courage and unspoken truth

By Jay Junior Williams


Facing up to the issues of youth bullying and the resultant effects within communities, especially those in the West Auckland area is a task that Jay Junior Williams, the creator of 'Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane' has taken by the horns.


With a cast of talented young West Aucklanders, Williams fuses Maori and Pacific motifs with gritty hard-hitting realities of youth living real daily lives – somewhere between lost and found. It is an ugly duckling story described as a poetic and operatic drama of transcendence.


"The transcendence we're talking about is that of self-worth and the freedom to be yourself," explains Williams.


The play touching on issues of bullying, depression and suicide have all been issues big in the news of the day re: Roast Busters and others. But, Williams says, these are not new issues and he's been working with them since 2007 when he began Phoenix NZYP (New Zealand Young Performers).


"Contrast to the Roast Busters, we've got a group of young men doing incredibly positive things. But, what these guys have done is highlight the issues we've been working with all along. Bullying today has changed and it's time communities and especially schools started recognising that."


Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane examines some of these issues, which Williams is passionate about. He goes on,


"You know it's about responsibility; of the bystander, the community, the schools all to feel a certain level of responsibility towards each other. If we had more of this, then intervention and reaction would be so much more meaningful. What we're about [Phoenix] is being proactive and tackling the problems in a real multi-dimensional way, which is what our communities and schools should also be doing."


As a secondary school teacher, Williams explains that all too many times bullying would go unnoticed until it was too late – especially cyber bullying which is almost invisible except to those involved.


"This is the worst thing about it. We haven't yet learnt to identify it as something as real as getting punched in the face. But, it can be much worse than just a physical act. This is part of the reason I wanted to do the play, to bring awareness to the power of words and the humiliation this can wield over others, especially in an online context."


Williams says that the recent spate of news items about these issues serve to highlight the gap in societies responsibilities to teach emotional literacy and care particularly through our schooling system.


"Phoenix as an organisation is robust and has provided opportunities for hundreds of young people to transition and transform through accessible forums and empathetic encounters. These are not always accessible in the schooling system and so we find that we are catching those who leak through the cracks."


Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane examines the issues in a non-traditional narrative. It points to a betrayal of the system, as in the Garden of Gethsemane, whereby the elephant standing in this garden is covered in a shroud of secrecy and ignored.


"We're using a non-traditional narrative because what people don't understand is that these issues have evolved and yet we are still using old mechanisms. We're trying to make it accessible and also to be able to bring out the discussion that needs to be had around these issues. It's not about laying blame, as some have been doing, it's about finding solutions and forums in which young people may be free to share."


Although the Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane ends in a positive, as with the story of the ugly duckling, this doesn't always happen in real life. Williams points to the fact that for a real change to happen over the long-term to stop bullying, violence and suicide the community has to stand-up attack it in a multi-dimensional way and get support from government dollar for dollar. Williams concludes,


"I don't have all the answers but I do know that at least my organisation has been and will continue to be part of the answer. I'd like to see community, schools and individuals really find solutions that connect and share through a focus on wellbeing. We're helping out with providing art as a mechanism for change and we hope that others may see some worth in this."


* Jay Junior Williams is the founder of Phoenix NZYP, a Senior Secondary Schools drama teacher and social change agent.

* As a recipient of the Vodafone World of Difference Award 2013, Jay worked on a number of projects through the year - Matariki (drawing awareness of it's significance for Maori), Phase 1 young writers festival, Candid (showcase of emerging artists), Blood in Water theatre piece, Women's Refuge Campaign in Palmerston North, The White Ribbon Campaign, Anti-Bullying Campaign in schools, visit to NYC.

* Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane also has limited public seating in a fundraiser performance for Leadership NZ on Tuesday 26th November 8pm, preceded by an address by Mr Williams at 730pm. Contact Q-Theatre for enquiries.


For direct interviews with Jay Junior Williams or the cast, please contact:

Jay Williams, MOB: 021 208 4289, Email:


For feature articles/multi-media please contact Aaron Taouma, MOB: 022 123 1050, Email:


For ticketing details at Corban Estate Arts Centre (Shed 1) on Friday 13th December at 8pm (preceded by a directors talk at 730pm), you can find out more at or ph: 838 4455, website:

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information. Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications.
DISCLAIMER: These emails are unedited and discussions made through this googlegroup are unmoderated. Announcements made through this googlegroup do not constitute endorsement for the organisations, individuals or opinions featured. Please check the integrity of organisations and individuals before exchanging personal information with them.
- - - - - - - - -
comment here:
send an email comment here:
more options
- - - - - - - - -
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "pima nius" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
For more options, visit