The many faces of . . . David Kaye

Maui OnStage’s guest director survived a battle zone to make his maiden voyage to Maui

Guest director David Kaye is experiencing a bunch of firsts — first visit to Maui and first time directing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
• Photo courtesy of director

Guest director David Kaye is experiencing a bunch of firsts — first visit to Maui and first time directing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” • Photo courtesy of director

“I could have gone to Maui, instead I went into a battle zone,” said David Kaye, a faculty member of the department of theater and dance at the University of New Hampshire since 1996.

In 2011, Kaye was approached by Maui OnStage to direct its spring production of “Taming of the Shrew.”

“I was literally a day away from signing the dotted line,” he said.

Kaye had earlier applied to be a Fulbright Scholar and spend six months at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel. Assuming he would not receive the grant, he was ready to bring his family to Maui. At the last minute, he was chosen for the scholarship.

On his six months in Israel Kaye said, “It was intense. After a few years of things being relatively quiet, we found ourselves 25 kilometers from the Gaza Strip in the height of the Arab summer. We experienced a missile attack and I was beginning to wonder if I made the right choice.”

• Photo courtesy of director

• Photo courtesy of director

Kaye is finally headed to Maui, six years later, to direct Maui OnStage’s holiday production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and also to perform his solo show account of that summer in Israel, “How I Brought Peace to the Middle East: A Tragicomedy.”

The Arava Institute is a mixture of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian scholars striving to solve pressing environmental issues, primarily focused around water.

“The water problem in the Middle East will either be the nail in the coffin or the bridge to cooperation,” he said.

Kaye has an educational background of using theater in peacemaking and had hoped to conduct interviews with Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians while he was at Arava.

“It was decided that I couldn’t conduct the interviews, partly because the Jordanians are considered to be consorting with the enemy back home. In many cases, their families did not know where they were working,” explained Kaye.

• Photo courtesy of director

• Photo courtesy of director

Once home in Portsmouth, N.H., Kaye decided to write a play without the interviews.

“I said, ‘I’m going to get this done,’ even though I had nothing but the title,” he shared.

He then approached a friend at the Actor’s Collaborative Theater of New England and was able to convince the company to produce his solo show sans script.

“It was a tough process,” he recollected. “I wrote about ten pages and read it and I had to stop because I hated it. I thought ‘they’ve got two months before the show is supposed to open, they can cancel it.’ I called a playwright friend and read it to him and asked ‘Is there anything here?’ He encouraged me to keep going and it opened in October of 2014.”

“How I Brought Peace . . . “ went on to receive New Hampshire’s Spotlight on the Arts Awards for Best New Play, and was selected for the United Solo Festival in New York City. Over the past three seasons, Kaye has taken his solo show to theaters, colleges and museums all over the country.

Comedian Jo Koy (above) adds a second show to his November appearance at the MACC.
• Robyn Van  Swank photo

Comedian Jo Koy (above) adds a second show to his November appearance at the MACC. • Robyn Van Swank photo

“Ultimately the play is about optimism. That is always a good topic, but right now I think keeping hope alive might be what audiences want to hear. It is optimism put to the test and an important subject to reflect upon,” he explained.

Kaye will perform his solo show as part of Maui OnStage’s ONO! (One night only) free performing arts series at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.

“I kept thinking I’ve got to get out to Maui,” shared Kaye. “It came down to when I could get out there and it turned out to be the holiday slot of the season.”

That’s how Kaye landed the director’s chair for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” along with his passion for big challenges.

“I love a challenge. This is not an easy musical to direct, even in an extremely large theater with plenty of wing space,” he added.

Kaye has directed everything from Shakespeare to big musicals to devised plays for more than 20 years. Devised plays do not generally originate from a writer, but from a collaborative group, usually through improvisation. I asked if he had any favorite productions.

“I feel like if you can name it, I have probably directed it. I tend to gravitate to the last few things I have done,” he shared. “I just directed ‘Mary Poppins’ at the Prescott Park Arts Festival. Seventy-five thousand people came to see it so that was special; ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ with Steven Dascoulias is another memorable one (New Hampshire production); and “The Palestinian,” a devised play.

” ‘The Palestinian’ was a play about Americans’ perception of Palestinians,” Kaye continued.

I asked Kaye if he had ever seen a stage production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

“Never,” he laughed, “But it’s a piece I’ve always wanted to direct. I loved the movie as a kid. It’s a good script adaptation — it’s action-packed and it moves. They’ve been thinking about doing it at the Prescott Park Arts Festival, so soon I can say, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen it.’ “

This Weekend

Maui OnStage concludes the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy “Harvey” by Mary Chase, directed by Dale Button. Elwood P. Dowd is a good-natured eccentric who is a regular fixture at his neighborhood tavern. He doesn’t cause any real trouble, except for his insistence on including his friend Harvey in all of his sister Veta’s social gatherings. The trouble is, Harvey is an imaginary six-one-and-a-half-foot-tall white rabbit. Wherever Elwood goes, Harvey goes. To avoid future embarrassment for her family, Veta decides to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium.

* Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

Upcoming

Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Seussical, Jr.,” directed by Alexis Dascoulias. Forty students between the ages of 7 and 15 will take you to the world of Dr. Seuss, where the Cat in the Hat (Jeremiah Webb) leads you through the adventures of Horton the Elephant (Ian Smith), and other Seuss favorites.

n Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 21 through 29 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

Just Announced

Comedian Jo Koy is returning to Maui next month. After a sold- out show last year, followed by a quick sell out for his upcoming performance slated for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22, a second late-night performance at 10 p.m. has just been added to that night.

His infectious, explosive energy onstage, insightful jokes and family-inspired humor crosses all boundaries. Koy has appeared frequently on “Chelsea Lately,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Joy Behar Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “Jamie Foxx: Laffapalooza.”

* Performance at 10 p.m. Nov. 22 in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets range from $36.50 to $46.50 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.

*****

Rick Bartalini presents Bill Maher’s 7th Annual New Year’s Evening of Comedy Starring Bill Maher & Bob Saget. Special kamaaina pre-sale tickets are available now for Hawaii residents only, with tickets available to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday. Maher will be ringing in the Maui New Year at the MACC once again and this year he will be joined by standup comedian Saget.

After sold-out shows for the past six years, Maher continues to make good on his promise to be the “Don Ho of New Year’s.” Concert promoter Bartalini will honor the residents of Hawaii with an exclusive kamaaina pre-sale so that local residents may purchase the best seats first. Hawaii residents can use the pre-sale code ITMFA to get early access to tickets before they go on sale to Mainland customers.

* Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 1 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $79.50 to $99.50 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.