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Thea 462/Pacs 462: Drama and Theatre of Oceania

Fall 2001

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa


Thea 462/ Pacs 462 is an undergraduate level offering in the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Center for Pacific Islands Studies.


Instructors: Professors Vilsoni Hereniko ( and Dennis Carroll (

Venue:   Kennedy Theatre 101

Time:  Tuesday and Thursday, 12-1.15pm.                                        

Office Hours:  (to be announced in class.)


Purpose of the Course

            The purpose of this course is to provide students with a historical perspective of drama and theatre in Oceania, from the time of European contact to the present. There are three main components to this course: indigenous theatre forms of Oceania, popular theater, and scripted plays.


Student Evaluation

            Students will be evaluated on attendance and performance in class (10%), five assignments during the semester (50%), and an exam (40%).


Required Texts:

Brisbane, Katharine, ed.

1991    Australia Plays.  London: Nick Hern Books.


Garrett, S

1991    He Reo Hou. 5 Plays by Maori Playwrights. Wellington. Playmarket.


Hereniko, Vilsoni and Teresia Teaiwa

1993    Last Virgin in Paradise. Suva: Mana Publications.


Kneubuhl, John

1997    Think of a Garden and Other Plays. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.


Lawler, R

1989     Summer of the 17th Doll. Samuel French.


Mitchell, William ed.

1992        Clowning as Critical Practice: Performance Humor in the South Pacific.  Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press.


Thomas, Larry

1991    Men, Women and Insanity. 3 Plays.  Suva: University of the South Pacific, 151-204.




            This course will be taught by Dr. Vilsoni Hereniko, associate professor with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. Before joining UH, he taught theatre arts at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.  He has also written, directed, and acted in many plays. Dr. Hereniko’s dissertation topic was “Polynesian Clowns and Satirical Comedies.”


            The Australian section of the course will be taught by Dr. W. Dennis Carroll. Professor Carroll is Australian by birth and has published extensively on Australian contemporary drama and staged several Australian plays. He was also the artistic director for Kumu Kahua in Honolulu until a few years ago. Recently, a play he wrote about the life of Captain Cook was produced by Kumu Kahua.



Course Outline


Note: You are expected to attend all classes. If you have a legitimate reason for being absent, please call the instructor in advance and let him know so he can make alternative arrangements for you to see him.



8/28: Orientation and overview of the course.


8/30: Indigenouse theater practices  of Oceania.

Reading: “Introduction” in Mitchell ed.


9/04: the arioi of Tahiti

Reading: Pages 96-111 in Hereniko’s “Polynesian Clowns and Satirical Comedies”


9/06: the fale aitu of Samoa

Reading: Sinavaiana’s chapter  in Mitchell ed.


9/11: the han maneak su of Rotuma

Reading: Hereniko’s chapter in Mitchell ed.


9/13: Melanesian theater practices.

Reading: at least one chapter from Melanesia in Mitchell ed. Also read Fergus Clunie and Walesi Ligairi in Domodomo: June 1983: 1, 46-77.



ASSIGNMENT 1: (to be announced in class on 9/06)



9/18: The emergence of popular theater in Melanesia.

Reading: “This Man” by Francis Bugotu and Tony Hughes.


9/20: Won Smolbag Theater: Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

View tape of this group in class.


9/25: The emergence of Papua New Guinea Writers

Reading: Introduction to Five New Guinea Plays as well as “The Ungrateful Daughter” by Leo Hannet.


9/27: Early Plays and Playwrights

Reading: Kirsty Powell’s dissertation titled “The First Papua New Guinea Plays and Playwrights.”


10/02: The plays of Nora Vagi Brash

Reading: “Which Way Big Man?” in Through Melanesian Eyes compiled by Ganga Powell. Also research library/internet for more information on Brash.



ASSIGNMENT 2: (to be announced in class on 9/25)



10/04:  The Role of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) and the South Pacific Creative Arts Society.

Reading: Preface and Chapters 1 and 2 in Subramani’s “South Pacific Literature: From Myth to Fabulation.”


10/09: Early plays from Fiji.

Reading: “I Native No More” by Jo Nacola.


10/11: Plays about the urban dispossessed.

Reading: Larry Thomas’ Plays.


10/16: Exploring a Pacific theater,

Reading: “Last Virgin in Paradise.”


10/18: Overview of the theater scene in Hawaii.

Reading: Introduction by Dennis Carroll in Kumu Kahua Plays.


10/23:  Influences on Pacific Playwrights

Reading: “Think of a Garden” by John Kneubuhl.


10/30:  The growth of contemporary Pacific theater in Hawaii

Reading: one of Alani Apio’s plays.



ASSIGNMENT 3: (to be announced in class on 10/09)



11/01: Overview of New Zealand Plays

Reading: “Introduction” in He Reo Hou


11/06: Plays by Maori Playwrights

Reading: “Roimata” by Riwia Brown. (text)


ASSIGNMENT 4: (to be announced in class on 11/06)


11/08: Plays by Maori Playwrights

Reading: “Te Awa I Tahuti.”


11/13: Other Plays, Playwrights in Diaspora.


11/15: An assessment of the theater scene in Oceania: Future Directions?


The rest of the course will be taught by Dennis Carroll, except for the final class on 12/13.


11/20:  Early Australian Drama and Theatre

READING ASSIGNMENT: Carroll, "Contemporary Australian Drama," Ch. 1

(Xerox); Esson's "The Drovers" (Xerox)




11/27:  Development of Mainstream Australian Drama Since 1960

READING:  Introduction to Katharine Brisbane to “Australia Plays”; Lawler, “Summer of the 17th Doll.” (Texts)


11/29: Development of Mainstream Australian Drama Since 1960

READING: Williamson's "Travelling North," Nowra's "The Golden Age." (from “Australia Plays.”


12/04:  Development of Australian Alternative Drama and Theatre: Feminist

and Multicultural Theatre

READING: Alma de Groen's "The Rivers of China." (from “Australia Plays.”


12/06: The Rise of Aboriginal Drama and Theatre

READING: Carroll Ch. 13 pp. 346-66 (Xerox); Davis' "No Sugar."


ASSIGNMENT 5: A 2-3 page writing assignment for this unit on Australian Drama and Theatre will be described on 11/20 and will be due 12/11.




12/11: Review of the course / Evaluation


12/13: Exam Questions and Wrap-up.



December 17-23: Final Examinations




Some additional texts.


These readings will enhance your understanding and appreciation of drama and theatre in Oceania. You should read as many of them as you can during the course of the semester--see Pacific collection in Hamilton.


Brandon, James (ed.)

1993     Oceania. The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Brash, Nora

1987    Which Way, Big Man? Through Melanesian Eyes. Compiled by Ganga Powell. Melbourne: Macmillan, 170-187.


Carroll, Dennis

1995     Australian Contemporary Drama  (rev. Ed.)  Sydney, Currency Press.


Chi, Jimmy and Kuckles.

1991    Bran Nue Dae. Sydney, Currency Press, and Broome, W. A. Magabala Books.


Clunie, Fergus and Walesi Ligairi

1983      Traditional Fijian Spirit Masks and Spirit Masquers. Domomodomo. Suva: Fiji Museum.


Hannet, Leo

1971    The Ungrateful Daughter. Five New Guinea Plays . ed. Ulli Beier. Queensland, Jacaranda Press.


Hereniko, Vilsoni

1995    Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.


1994     Clowning as Political Commentary. The Contemporary Pacific. Vol. 6.1, 1-28.


1990     Polynesian Clowns and Satirical Comedies. Diss. University of the South Pacific, 95--118.


Huntsman, Judith and Antony Hooper

1975    Male and Female in Tokelau Culture. Journal of the Polynesian Society. 84.4, 415-430.


Kiste, Robert C

1994    Pre-colonial Times. Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the Twentieth Century  ed. K. R. Howe Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 3-28.


Kneubuhl, John

1994    Comic Theater of Samoa: An Interview. Manoa. Vol. 5.1, 99-105.


Kneubuhl, Victoria

1987    Traditional Performance in Samoan Culture: Two Forms. Asian Theatre Journal. Vol. 4.2, 166-176.


Moyle, Richard.

1991    Polynesian Music and Dance. Auckland: Center for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland.


Nero, Karen ed.

1992    Pacific Studies: The Arts and Politics. Vol. 15, No. 4, December 1992.


Nozawa, Sharon

1994     Tumas in Won Smolbag, Unpublished Manuscript.


Plant, Chris

1973      Theatre and the South Pacific. Mana Annual of Creative Writing. Sydney: Pacific Publications, 58-60.


Powell, Kirsty

1978    The First Papua New Guinea Playwrights and Their Plays.  Diss. University of Papua New Guinea.


Sakamoto, Edward

1995    Hawaii No Ka Oi -- The Kamiya Family Trilogy  (Honolulu, UH Press, 1995.)


Schoeffel, Penelope

1994    Social Change. Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the Twentieth Century  ed. K. R. Howe et. al. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.


Sinavaiana, Caroline

1992    Comic Theatre in Samoa as Indigenous Media. Pacific Studies: The Arts and Politics. 199-209. Hawaii: The Institute for Polynesian Studies.


Sloan, Donald

1941    Polynesian Paradise: An Elaborated Travel Journal Based on Ethnological Facts. London: Robert Hale. 


Thorogood, Bernard

1960    Not Quite Paradise. London: London Missionary Society.



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