If you read this column regularly (both of you), you are well aware that I work in and write about theater.
For the past three years, I have coordinated the Maui Fringe Theater Festival, so therefore it is my job (on two fronts), to talk you into seeing a bunch of plays you’ve never heard of, or as a friend of mine puts it, “You never know what you’ll see at the Fringe Festival!”
Fringe theater is exactly what the word implies, “on the edge.” The cutting edge of theater rarely makes money, but it usually pays for itself, and every once in awhile an unknown playwright or performer strikes gold. One thing is for sure, every Fringe performance you might choose to see this weekend will be something that you’ve never seen before.
First up, there’s “They Call me Q!,” which opens the festival Friday night. Be forewarned it is also Wailuku First Friday Town Party, so you’ll want to arrive early for stress free parking.
So who is Q? Qurrat Ann Kadwani is an actress, producer, emcee, and TV host from New York City. Daytime drama fans might recognize her from “As The World Turns,” and “All My Children.” “They Call Me Q!” debuted at the Chicago Fringe Festival 2012 and received the Best Actress Award at the Harvest Festival 2012 in NYC. This one-woman show (with 13 characters no less), is based on Q’s traditional Indian parents, Caucasian teachers, Puerto Rican classmates, African-American friends and various Indian women. Life wasn’t easy growing up in the Bronx, will Q be able to reconcile being Indian and American?
New to Maui is Matthew Gurewitsch, a former New York theatrical journalist, now retired and relishing his new role of creating theater.
The existential, “Celestial Mechanics,” his first play, is a new one act for three human beings and one solar system. The story involves two tourists and their encounter with a mysterious homeless man. The unlikely trio finds themselves witnessing an astrological phenomenon ,which profoundly affects them in entirely different ways. What’s your place in the universe? The sky is not the limit.
Also new to Maui is Rick Scheideman and his one-act, “Joy and Jack.” Rick is an outstanding actor who has been touring all over the world with one-man shows ranging from Einstein to “The Old Man and the Sea” for the past 20 years. “Joy and Jack” is the true-life heartfelt tale of C.S. Lewis and his unlikely, twilight love affair.
Of course you’re all saying, “But what about ‘Turner and Hooch?’ ” No fears, Julia Wackenheim, from Chicago’s and Los Angeles’ famed Improv Olympics, brings her one-woman show, “Turner and Hooch 2: Murder at the Wackenheim Manor,” fresh from the San Fernando Valley. Wackenheim conjures her inner 12-year-old fantasy of solving a mystery with the crack police team, while her mother yells at her to “shut up!” Follow the three friends as they navigate the clues of ole Wackenheim Murder Manor, discovering the truth about itand themselves.
On Saturday, Will Hausman opens day two of the festival with “John Brown’s Body.” Maui actor Paul Janes-Brown, a descendant of the legendary abolitionist, plays the title role. In the late 1850s, Brown and his ragtag guerrilla group embarked on a holy war against slavery that was carried out with shocking violence, and his execution in 1859 set off a chain of events that led directly to the Civil War.
“John Brown’s Body” takes place in his jail cell in the pre-dawn hours before he is to be hanged. In what is almost exclusively a one-man play, Brown reviews his life, his sins and his personal crusade against slavery. This powerful play is aptly timed with the current PBS mini-series, “The Abolitionists.”
In addition to the five headlining productions, the 2013 fringe festival will also feature showcases (think opening act) on Saturday prior to each performance. Showcases include an original collection of poems by 2011 First Place Fringe Award winner, Sharyn Stone, at 4 p.m. and Adaptations Dance Theater at 6 p.m. ADT was founded in 2012 by Amelia Nelson and Hallie Hunt Armato. The group strives to create original works rooted in classical dance but with modern wildness. Also performing with ADT is Seabury Hall dance instructor, Vanessa Cerrito.
Immediately following ADT is Pat Masumoto’s premiere of her original one-act, “How To Survive Insanity: An Experiment.” Other Saturday showcases are an original monologue presented by Virginia Sandell, stand-up comedy by Chino LaForge and a musical excerpt from “Shout! The Mod Musical,” starring Jonna Ahn, Felicia Chernicki, Allison Mikes, Lina Krueger and Danielle Delaunay.
In another original showcase at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Danielle Bergen, author and transgender advocate will read from her novel “It’s Always Okay To Be Me,” a journey to recovering lost hope.
VIP pass holders (sold out at press time) may attend the private, pre-opening night and closing gala parties featuring special performances by the World Body Painting Award winners (5th Place), the Ultraviolets and Adaptations Dance Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. tonight with food and drink provided by Whole Foods Market, Maui Wow-Wee Candy Bars and Pau Vodka. The judges for this year’s cash prize Fringe Fest Awards are Sarah Ruppenthal, Trish “da dish” Smith, Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez and Robert E. Wills. It is certain that the average person who wanders into a Fringe show will say, “What the hell did I just watch?” Yet every night someone else will say “I just saw the best show ever!”
* Maui OnStage will present the third annual “Maui Fringe Theater Festival” Friday through Sunday at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets for individual performances are $10 at the door; or you may purchase online at ww.mauionstage.com (plus applicable fees).
Also this weekend
Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Man of La Mancha,” by Dale Wasserman, with lyrics by Joe Darion music by Mitch Leigh, and direction by David C. Johnston. One of the most enduring works of musical theater in the American canon, “Man of La Mancha” runs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 24 in Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. Tickets are $25 adults, $22 seniors and $18 students (18 and younger). All seats for Super Bowl Sunday will cost $15 per person. For details, visit www.mauiacademy.org, call 244-8760, or purchase tickets at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center’s customer service kiosk.
At the MACC
Maui’s Judy Ridofino and Judy’s Gang will present, “SOS Salute to Our Soldiers,” at Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday. Over 100 dancers from ages 3 to “seasoned citizens” will strut their stuff in this patriotic dance show ranging from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to “ROCK in the USA.” Special guests include Jimmy C. on drums, Al Scheck on guitar and Tia Cabrera on vocals. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors, students and children 6 and older. Performance is at 7 p.m. in Castle Theater.
Margaret Cho will return to Maui Friday, Feb. 8 with her new stand-up show, uproariously and aptly named “Mother.” According to the comedian, her 2013 tour is an untraditional look at motherhood and how we look at maternal figures and strong women in queer culture. “It’s probably my edgiest show to date, filled with riotous observations – on race, drugs, sexuality gay, straight, everything in between ” For mature audiences only. Cost is $27, $37 and $47 (plus fees).
Giordano Dance Chicago, the original jazz dance company, celebrating over 50 years of excellence, performs on Feb. 7 in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Giordano choreographers have designed for Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and most recently on the hit TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” GDC, known for it’s high-energy, flexibility and athleticism, has been described as “two hours of wow.” Performance is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $12, $32, $45 (plus applicable fees).
To purchase tickets for shows at the MACC, visit the box office, call 242-7469, or order online at mauiarts.org.