The curtain rises on Maui’s theater season
In October of 2016, local actor and dramatic coach Robert Angelo presented his solo-show production of “Clarence Darrow” at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.
This weekend he will be reviving that production at the intimate ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. When I last interviewed him he shared the dangers and advantages of performing alone on stage for two hours, and I inquired how the experience went in 2016.
“It went quite well and was well received. On a personal level, from an actor’s perspective, I was aware, after the two initial performances, I had dropped some lines I felt were important to the piece,” Angelo shared. “I felt there was more depth and more nuances to be explored in the performance of Darrow. This drove me to want to do it again. The more you perform a piece, the more you can discover and grow with more confidence.
“Being alone on stage is like a high-wire act without a net. As I laughingly say, it’s one of the only times you can talk to imaginary people and not get taken away,” he mused.
I inquired why he chose the ProArts Playhouse for this weekend’s encore performances.
“I received feedback from quite a few regular theatergoers that they were unable to see the MACC performances. There was enough encouragement to stage it again, including from the playwright (David W. Rintels). That convinced me to pursue more performances,” he said.
“I contacted ProArts and they were receptive to coproducing the play and staging it between their own productions. ProArts is an intimate theater that lends itself well to the storytelling aspects of the play, and the audience becomes the de facto jury in some courtroom re-enactments.”
I asked Angelo if he had developed an intangible connection with Darrow and his legacy.
“I think that kind of connection is inevitable when playing a non-fiction character. Many of the words in the courtroom scenes are Darrow’s actual words. It’s my responsibility to keep that truth,” he said.
“His importance in American legal history needs to be told. I’m amazed how many people have little or no knowledge of him. Darrow mixed poetry and law to form a unique kind of speech. To this day, many lawyers still study his techniques. He led the crusade against capital punishment. He was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a prominent advocate for Georgist economic reform. He defended high-profile clients in many famous trials of the early 20th century, including teenage thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb, teacher John T. Scopes in the Scopes “Monkey” Trial and Ossian Sweet in a racially-charged self-defense case.”
Angelo and ActNow Production’s goal is to present future plays on Maui and statewide. He shared that he will be reprising the role again in a dual production with Oahu’s TAG: The Actors Group in Honolulu this summer.
“We are very excited to take this Maui production to Oahu. We are delighted and pleased to be a vanguard in creating more interisland sharing of live theater. As I’ve often said, it’s collaboration and cooperation within the artistic community that makes more creative ventures possible.”
* ActNow Productions and ProArts Playhouse present “Robert Angelo as Clarence Darrow.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com
The King Kekaulike Dramaaticans (the student-chosen nickname of the local drama program) will be presenting the first youth production of 2018 next weekend.
“Makin’ It,” a comedy-drama by Cynthia Mercati, is a story of daily high school interaction and a principal who tries his best to navigate the ever-shifting changes of young people. I asked Director Chris Kepler, synonymous for presenting obscure modern scripts for the burgeoning theater program, how he goes about finding quality plays for teenagers.
“I discovered ‘Makin’ It’ when looking for a show for the intermediate/advanced acting class,” he said. “This class has a number of accomplished and deserving performers, and I was looking for a play that would showcase all of them. Although plays about high schoolers in a high school are overdone, this one worked for us. That is such an element of consideration when searching for shows. Our shows are class plays, not open auditions, so any show must be selected as to how it molds itself to a specific class,” he added.
” ‘ Makin’ It’ is monologue driven. Two thirds of the cast steps away from the action and delivers a monologue. I liked that — to highlight a number of performers — and it has a great message for young people.
The year 2018 is shaping up to be a very big year for Kepler and his students, as the state-of-the-art King Kekaulike Performing Arts Center is scheduled to open this spring. I asked Kepler to share his thoughts on the approaching gala opening.
“The arts center is off the hook,” he exclaimed. “There is nothing quite like it in the state. We cannot wait to open our spring musical, just around the corner on April 20 (“The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree”), but the transition to such an exquisite space will come with some decided growing pains. It’s like going from a Hot Wheels toy to a fully functioning Lamborghini in one jump.
“We are still not into the building in the sense that we can play with lights, sound, sets, fly loft, staging, et cetera,” he continued. “However, we will be busting our okoles (butts) to present our audience with the best experience possible as we open a gift that will serve generations of students to come.”
With these new technical challenges ahead, Kepler shared that King Kekaulike Principal, Mark Elliott, has begun implementing a new technical theater arts academy on the Upcountry campus.
“(It will be) an immersion program of sorts in which a cohort of students study core academics, but focuses their elective courses in and around technical theater using the arts center as a training implement,” said Kepler. “They will constitute the staff of the building in that they will run the technical elements for any and all events. After four years of immersion in the academy, these students will graduate from high school with serious options in continuing technical theater education at a university, or jumping straight into the technical theater work force job ready.”
* The King Kekaulike Dramaaticans presents “Makin’ It” by Cynthia Mercatti, directed by Chris Kepler. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 19 through 27, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28 in the cafetorium at the King Kekaulike High School campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and are available at the door 30 minutes before the show.
Catch the daring acrobats, jugglers, balance artists and contortionists of the New Shanghai Circus at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center when it returns for its annual engagement. Rooted in more than two thousand years of Chinese circus traditions, this is a fun- for-all-ages event.
* Performances are at 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday and 4 and 7 p.m. Tuesday in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $12 to $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Maui OnStage and Surf Rents Trucks present the eighth annual Maui Fringe Theater Festival with eight one-act plays in performance from Jan. 19 through 21 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.
Productions include “Too Old To Be This Young,” written and performed by Laura Hedli; “INTRUSION,” written and performed by Qurrat Ann Kadwani; “Courted,” written and performed by Alison Logan; “The Sex Life of Achilles” by David LeBarron; “When Trump Gets To Heaven” by Amorah St. John; “I Love Myself: The Masturbation Musical,” created and performed by Jaime Summers; “Vindication: Scenes from the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft” by Lin McEwan; and Free Range Comedy’s performance of “Lawyers, Bombs and Death” by Gabby Anderman and Chris Rose.
* Tickets are $15 per show with a $75 VIP all-festival pass available by phone. For the complete festival schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www .mauionstage.com or call 242-6969. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.