Lusi Faiva is a New Zealand Samoan performer, dancer and founding member of Touch Compass, a disability-led performance company in Auckland.
Lusi has been performing for the past 30 years and considers her career to be her greatest achievement. She has performed for Touch Compass in all its major shows in New Zealand and Australia since 1997 and sits on its Artistic Direction Panel.
One of her first shows, Lusi’s Eden (2001), is an autobiographical performance based on her early childhood years spent living in institutions. It was described by Auckland Art Festival's then Director Shona McCullagh as "truly ground-breaking work”.
Mr and Mrs Jones (2014) is a short film about her foster parents who taught her to read and write, enabling her to communicate with others.
Lusi performed in Wellington’s CubaDupa festival in 2021, collaborating with theatre company Everybody Cool Lives Here and choreographer Tupe Lualua, creating a work called Taupou.
She has received numerous awards, including the 2020 Pacific Toa Artist Award at the Arts Pasifika Awards and the Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award, presented at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021.
Lusi talks to Stace Robertson, Lead Accessibility Advisor Kaiārahi a Toi Ōritetanga, Arts Access Aotearoa, about her current work and future plans.
Stace: Tell us about your new work and when we’ll get to see it.
Lusi: Aiga is a new devised theatre work exploring personal identity, desire and above all, aiga, family. It takes an honest look at what it means to be a Pacific and disabled person in Aotearoa. It’ll be premiered at Te Pou Theatre at the Auckland Arts Festival from 20 to 24 March this year.
Stace: Who is working with you on the work?
Lusi: I have a talented team. Moana Ete is the director and the wāhine actors are Forest Kapo, Fiona Collins and Iana Grace, and me performing with them. I am also the lead creator of this work.
Stace: People know you as a dancer. Why do you want to tell your story through theatre?
Lusi: I always wanted to be an actor and I got a chance to act in a play with a theatre group when I was 15. I enjoy the experience of playing different characters and telling stories from different perspectives on life’s journey.
Stace: Touch Compass has made a big shift to work in crip time and crip space. How did that shift make the development of Aiga accessible for you?
Lusi: Crip time allows the development process to grow as we continue building the structure and shape of Aiga and what it needs to make accessibility work for all disabled audiences. I think it’s also important for people to understand the best way for me to focus on what I’ve been creating over three years.
Stace: How does it feel to tell such a personal story through performance?
Lusi: I guess the story has to come from somewhere, and I'm happy to share my voice and my story with everyone. It’s an honest look at things that are important to me. It’s a way to share a perspective of one person’s life – hopefully changing the way people think and opening up their minds.
Stace: How do you hope audiences at the Auckland Arts Festival 2024 will respond to Aiga?
Lusi: I’m not really sure how audiences will respond. I just have to wait until they come to the show. But I do hope they will respond well and positively to Aiga.
Stace: What are you plans for Aiga after its premiere at the Auckland Arts Festival?
Lusi: I’d love to take Aiga to other Pacific communities in Aotearoa and to international festivals, especially to Samoa. I think Aiga will have its own life outside of Aotearoa.
I’m satisfied with this work soon to become a reality on the Te Pou Theatre stage and it’s the work I’m most proud of in my long career as a Pacific disabled artist and performer.
Stace: What else is coming up for you in 2024?
Lusi: I’m looking at possible new pathways to expand opportunities in directing theatre and film for me. And I am hoping to travel internationally to meet with other artists over there and have some new opportunities to work with them.
Meanwhile I am continuing with my artistic role on the direction panel of Touch Compass. I would like Touch Compass to be able to continue growing, and providing new generations of disabled artists and creators the platform to perform on the stage and give their voices to the world.
Aiga features at Te Pou Theatre from 20 to 24 March 2024 as part of the Auckland Arts Festival programme. For more information and to book your tickets