Reminder of the past

As a history buff, I can’t help seeing political similarities from century to century. From 1861 to 1933 only three Democrats occupied the White House totaling 19 years. One was President Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland was one of the few bachelor president in addition to being the only president elected to non-consecutive terms. Labeled as a draft dodger for hiring an Irish immigrant to serve in his place during the Civil War, and a deadbeat dad and philanderer by the Republican Party, Cleveland was depicted in a well-circulated political cartoon as a wealthy man strolling down a New York City street as a destitute mother hovers in an alleyway. A screaming baby cried, “Ma, ma where’s my pa?” After his election in 1884, Cleveland’s supporters reprinted the drawing with a second cartoon bubble with Cleveland replying, “He’s off to the White House, ha ha ha.”

In 1888, despite winning the popular vote, Cleveland was defeated in the Electoral College. During his first term, occupancy of the Hawaiian Kingdom was a hot topic, which Cleveland opposed. When he was re-elected in 1892, perhaps the Committee of Safety saw a narrow window of opportunity, as presidents were inaugurated in March until 1937. The committee overthrew Queen Liliuokalani in January 1893. Nearly one year after the committee’s controversial act, President Cleveland offered his opinion in this excerpt of a lengthy address to Congress: “It appeared from the documents submitted to the Senate, that the ownership was tendered to us by a provisional government set up to succeed the constitutional ruler of the islands, who had been dethroned, and it did not appear such provisional government had the sanction of either popular revolution or suffrage.”

Cleveland went on to condemn the Committee of Safety for “acting in haste,” and called it “his duty” to “withdraw the treaty from the Senate,” suggesting an “accurate, full and impartial investigation to be made of the facts attending the subversion of the constitutional government of Hawaii.” Said executive order gathered dust for his entire second term, despite the hopes of Hawaiian loyalists. When William McKinley, backed by Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, was elected in 1896, the queen lost her lone influential sympathizer in Washington.

One hundred years later, President Bill Clinton, through a joint resolution of Congress (U.S. Public Law 103-150), acknowledged that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii “occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and further acknowledges that the native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty through the Kingdom of Hawaii or through plebiscite or referendum.”

I asked Sammie Choy, the director of the “Mai Poina: The Overthrow” production at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center this weekend, why this common knowledge should continue to be retold. The play tells the story of the tumultuous last four days of the Hawaiian monarchy from the perspective of Native Hawaiians and loyalists.

“Mai poina means ‘do not forget,’ ” she said. “We know that our schools offer a bare-bones re-telling of Hawaiian history, but it is critical to understand what led up to the overthrow in order to appreciate and make sense of where we, as a state, are today, both politically and culturally.”

The play began as a three-day pageant written by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl to mark the 100th anniversary of the overthrow at the Iolani Palace in 1993 and then evolved into an ongoing walking tour.

“Kneubuhl was asked to edit her writings down to a one-hour performance in 2009, 50 years after Hawaii’s statehood,” said Choy. “In discussions with the MACC, it was decided we would adapt the show again for presentation at the McCoy Studio Theater, so we have reshaped it for that space, adding visual and oral elements that were not possible in the outdoor walking tour.” Expounding on the subject matter of Saturday’s performance, Choy shared, “Kneubuhl has found primary sources (which) gives the characters an amazing sense of immediacy. The audience gets a sense of what was happening on a daily basis in January of 1893.”

I asked Choy how newcomers are affected by this history.

“Sometimes first-time visitors to Hawaii don’t know that Hawaii was a kingdom, much less that it had been overthrown with the aid of U.S. military forces,” she said. “Our actors tend to be quite knowledgeable about Hawaiian history, and they have a deep commitment to the characters they play. As a director, I see them allowing a clear-eyed understanding of historical events to inform.”

UPCOMING

Rick Scheideman returns to Lahaina with his rotating one-man show series that includes “An Evening with Mark Twain,” “An Evening with Albert Einstein,” and the premiere of “The Old Man and the Sea.”

During his performances, Scheideman enters sitting at a desk with a mirror and makeup discussing his character while transforming into character in front of his audiences, bringing the wonder of belief in the midst of disbelief.

* Performances will be at 6:30 p.m. Sundays from Sept. 25 through Dec. 11 at the Pioneer Inn courtyard in Lahaina. Courtyard dining is also available. Tickets are $20 and may be reserved by calling (303) 507-0987 or purchased at the door.

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Maui OnStage presents “Boeing, Boeing” by Marc Camoletti. This French farce is set in Paris during the swinging ’60s. Bernard (Brian Connelly) has an intricate timetable to follow in order to accommodate a rendezvous with his three stewardess fiances (Sara Jelley, Erin McCargar and Lin McEwan), but when the Boeing super-jet allows all three to travel at a much faster rate, his schedule is thrown into chaos.

* Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays from Sept. 30 through Oct. 16 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and are available by calling 242-6969 or visiting www.mauionstage.com.

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Rose/Oxborrow Productions in conjunction with ProArts Inc. presents “The House of Yes” by Wendy MacLeod, directed by Jim Oxborrow.

When the brother of a mentally unbalanced young woman (Hoku Pavao) who thinks she’s Jackie Kennedy announces he’s engaged, she flies into a murderous rage.

* Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays beginning Oct. 14 and continuing through Oct. 30 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Due to the adult nature of this play, it may not be appropriate for children. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.houseofyes.yapsody.com or at the door. For more information, call 463-6550.

JUST ANNOUNCED

“Robert Angelo as Clarence Darrow” is coming to the MACC. In this one-man show, Angelo portrays the famous attorney Clarence Darrow, reminiscing over the lawyer’s renowned career and touching on many of his famous trials, including the Scopes “monkey” trial and the sensational Leopold-Loeb case.

n Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 and 22 in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $25 to $35 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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The Maui Celebrity Series presents a return engagement by William Shatner with Brian Evans, plus special guests.

* The performance will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 30 at the Historic Iao Theater. Ticket prices are to be announced. For more information, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.

OPPORTUNITIES

Maui OnStage will be holding auditions for Disney’s “Mary Poppins” at 4 p.m. Friday at the Historic Iao Theater, with call-back auditions on Monday. All roles are open, and all ages are welcome.

Actors should prepare two contrasting one-minute songs, one up-tempo and one ballad, from a traditional musical theater piece. Actors must provide sheet music in their key or a karaoke track on CD or MP3. An accompanist will be provided. Rehearsals will begin in late September with three weeks of performances from Nov. 25 through Dec. 11. Appointments in increments of 10 minutes are required.

* To reserve, call 244-8680, ext. 23, or for a complete list of characters, visit www.mauionstage.com.