Rena Owen

Ngāti Hine

1960 -

Rena Owen was born at Moerewa and was educated at Bay of Islands College. She trained and qualified as a state registered general and obstetric nurse at Auckland Public Hospital. Rena travelled to London and was based there for the next two years before serving eight months in prison. Rena was released in 1985. In 1986 she wrote Te Ata i Tahuti and worked in television. At the end of 1988 she returned to New Zealand and acted in the E Tipu E Rei series in 1989. In 1990 she was part of the International Arts Festival in Wellington and began writing Daddy’s Girl which was completed in January 1991. This play was produced at Taki Rua Theatre in February and March 1991. In 1990 she directed Te Whanau a Tuanui Jones in its national tour. Rena has acted in the television series Shark in the Park and in children’s theatre. In 1992 she coordinated a national hui for Māori drama practitioners at Tapu Terangi Marae and in October 1992 attended the South Pacific Arts Festival. A third play has been commissioned. Rena has written a few short stories for radio. Two extracts from both her plays were published in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Volume 5: Te Tōrino: The Spiral. In 1991 she was awarded a Te Atairangikaahu Commemorative Literary Award in the Drama Category. Rena has worked as an actor on television in England and New Zealand and has featured in the films Variations of a Theme and Roimata. She has acted in many New Zealand films and in-house videos, and has reviewed plays for Stage and Radio.

Biographical sources

  • Phone interview and correspondence with Rena Owen, 1 and 16 Sept. 1992 .

    Performing Arts

  • Daddy’s Girl. Taki Rua Theatare, Wellington, N.Z., Feb. 1991.
  • Te Awa i Tahuti. In He Reo Hou. Ed. Simon Garrett. Playmarket, 1991. 126-161. Extracts rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5: Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 265-269.
  • The play is set in an English prison with two characters: Toni, a Māori drug addict prisoner, and Mrs Bottomley, a white middle-aged counsellor. During the course of the play Toni slowly reveals her abusive childhood living with a violent father, loving mother and eight siblings, and her deep-rooted guilt concerning her brother Frankie’s suicide. Gradually through therapy Toni faces the pain of her past and contemplates leaving prison with new hope. This play was first written and produced in London and was developed with Ann Mitchell who directed it first performance when it was produced by Clean Break at the Albany Empire on 17 February 1987. The play toured London theatres, prisons, and drug rehabilitation centres.


  • Findlay, Katherine. "Warrior Woman." Mana: The Māori News Magazine for All New Zealanders 6 (1994): 53-55.
  • "Scene and Heard." New Zealand Woman’s Weekly 25 Feb. 1991: 58.
  • Neville, Pam. "Rena Puts Prison Past Behind Her." New Zealand Woman’s Weekly 25 Mar. 1991: 14-15.
  • Reviews

    Daddy’s Girl
  • Cooke, Patricia. "Māoris Make Promising Firsts in Daddy’s Girl." Dominion Sunday Times 10 Feb. 1991: 27.
  • Budd, Susan. "Lack of Pace Spoils Daddy’s Girl." Dominion 4 Feb. 1991: 7.
  • He Reo Hou
  • Brunton, Alan. "Māori Theatre More than a Performance." Dominion Sunday Times 21 July 1991: 22.