Sharing Mana‘o

“The arts are the best insurance policy a city can take on itself.”

— Woody Dumas, former mayor of Baton Rouge, La.

The county’s efforts to “rebrand” and revitalize Wailuku town, now known as the reWailuku project, began over three years ago with community outreach and extensive research. As described on its website, reWailuku.org, the initiative is “a call for the collective creativity of the Wailuku community . . . a venue to remember the Wailuku Town of yesterday and an invitation to imagine the Wailuku Town of tomorrow.”

Based on years of input and discussion, the reWailuku committee has unveiled its preferred concept design for the town hub. It includes plans for a 45,000-square-foot community center and event facility, 460 parking stalls, retail and office spaces, food trucks, classrooms and meeting rooms. Naturally, as a performer and patron of the arts, I’m especially excited about the planned theater venues, particularly the outdoor stage and covered plaza.

Wailuku is already home to several performing arts organizations that, to the casual observer, may seem to be in direct competition with each other. In reality, these groups have a long-standing informal agreement of cooperation and mutual support. Now, considering the reWailuku project’s emphasis on the arts as a vital part of the town’s future, the collaboration has moved to the next level with the newly formed Wailuku Performing Arts Alliance.

WPAA consists of five Wailuku-based performing arts groups: Maui OnStage, Maui Academy of Performing Arts, Maui Choral Arts Association, Maui Pops Orchestra and Maui Chamber Orchestra. The recently launched website (wpaamaui.com) features a comprehensive calendar of upcoming shows and events, as well as links to the participating organizations’ websites.

Regardless of which side of the stage you inhabit — on or off — and whether or not you’re a Wailuku resident, WPAA and reWailuku deserve your support. In communities where the arts thrive, so does the community itself, economically as well as socially and spiritually. And all of the WPAA member organizations reach far beyond the central valley, enriching all of us in Maui County.

One great example is the MAPA School Partnerships Educational Theatre Tour. Yes, I happen to be involved with this year’s tour, but that’s not my reason for touting the program. From my first encounter with the clarinet in 6th grade, arts education has enhanced my life. As President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, William Bennett, stated, “The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic . . . music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”

The MAPA school tour opened last Friday at Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina with three performances of “The Fisherman and His Wife — Maui Style.” The interactive mini-musical, for students in preschool through 5th grade, is a fun local take on the Brothers Grimm tale, teaching and reinforcing basic values while encouraging creativity and community. The show was well-received by the children and their teachers, with kid reviews like “Amazing!” and “Wonderful!” My favorite was the little boy who told me, “You’re an awesome fish!”

Francis Taua and Brett Marynn Wulfson play the title roles, Kahala Greig wrote and performs original ukulele music as our Mele Man, and I have the dual honor of being the storytelling narrator and the Magic Ulua (too tough to eat . . . a tough tita ulua). We have more than 40 performances scheduled between now and February, at most of the elementary schools and numerous preschools on Maui. If you don’t fall within our audience demographics, you’re welcome to attend one of our public shows during the February edition of Wailuku First Friday. The reWailuku Plaza won’t be ready yet, but we’ll present the show in the MAPA warehouse, which many folks still refer to as “the old National Dollar Store.”

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if your children or grandchildren come home from school singing:

Live with aloha and be pono;

Play an ‘ukulele or sing a song;

Be kind to ‘aikane and ‘ohana,

And you’ll be smiling all day long.

— From “The Fisherman and His Wife — Maui Style”

I’ve been smiling — and singing — ever since Friday.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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