'It took me back to yesteryear!" "That used to be me up there!" Those are the comments drama teacher Chris Kepler heard from parents after they caught a glimpse of "Groovy: A Musical Comedy Tribute to the 1960s." The far-out musical opens at King Kekaulike High School this weekend, and Kepler gave attendees at the school's recent Fine Arts Showcase a sneak peek.
Sixties' activism may be a familiar subject to parents, but finding out there was more to the era than beads and bell-bottoms was a learning experience for the young members of the Drama Club.
"We watched 'Hair,' and I tried to give them an understanding of the nonconformist movement of the time and the hippie culture," Kepler says. "They're having a lot of fun with it (and) their acting is really incredible."
BILL KEPLER photo
Levi Young (clockwise from left), Brittany Hanson, Alexandria Kane and Tierney Platt are taking a “Groovy” trip back to the ’60s at King Kekaulike High School.
For Kepler, "Groovy" represents his first big musical since making the leap in fall 2008 from teaching English to replacing Carolyn Johnson as King Kekaulike's new drama teacher.
"I gotta admit, I'm a bit nervous," Kepler says. "Fortunately, our first two shows this year went wonderfully." They started off in February with "The Pony Expresso," a humorous melodrama performed by the Beginning Acting class; and followed that up in March with "Usher," a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe performed by the Intermediate/Advanced Acting class. Funds raised from the shows enabled the drama department to buy its very own spotlight - an important acquisition for future productions.
Kepler has worked to keep costs down by choosing lesser-known plays and those with simple set and costume requirements. His biggest challenge so far? "Facilities," he says. "We don't have a stage area we can use without request, so we do it in the cafeteria, but that's sometimes used for other things I'm learning to ask for more help and to network with other schools to let them know what's going on."
A former Sue Ann Loudon protg at Baldwin High School, Kepler has fond memories of his time learning from the legendary drama teacher.
"Miss Loudon was firm, but not strict," he recalls. "She encouraged us to have fun. You didn't want to cross her, but you knew she wasn't going to bite your head off if you messed up."
It's a teaching style that Kepler has drawn from during his first year on the job at King Kekaulike. "I want the kids to have fun," he says, "-to enjoy the arts, enjoy performing, enjoy coming out of their shells."
"Groovy," by Tim Kelly and Bill Francouer, looks like the perfect way to ensure that enjoyment. With fun parodies like "Lemon Bugs in a Lemon Airplane" spoofing the Beatles, and an outdoor music concert that parallels Woodstock, the play delivers "lots of nods and pokes and winks to the '60s," according to Kepler.
Sounds like just the right kind of trip down memory lane
* Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday in the King Kekaulike High School student dining room. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students, free for children age 5 and younger; available at the door 30 minutes before showtime.
Kathy Collins' "Death Comedy Jam" was such a hit when she staged it in January that she's bringing it back. It's "The Resurrection," at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater at 7:30 Friday night. The Maui broadcaster and actress will step away from her well-known "Tita" role to share her personal experiences with death following the passing of her husband Barry Shannon. But rather than be a "group therapy session," the show is a celebration of death, widowhood and beyond. The hana hou performance includes some new material and guest stars Dr. Nat, Steve Grimes and Tita (of course!), with special video appearances by Willie K and Eric Gilliom.
n Adults only. Tickets are $25. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all Maui Arts & Cultural Center shows, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Coinciding with First Friday in Wailuku, "Steel Magnolias" opens at the Historic Iao Theater. Sure to be a big draw for the ladies, the play is about six strong Southern women who do their bonding in a beauty salon. Director Jennifer Rose says the Maui OnStage production is full of both tears and laughter, with female characters we can identify with in our own lives. Playwright Robert Harling based Shelby's character on his younger sister, Susan, who died of complications from Type I diabetes.
"Ultimately, (the play) is about family," Rose says, "and the family 'Steel Magnolias' shares is not just the family of blood, but the family we have chosen for ourselves."
* "Steel Magnolias" runs through May 17; at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for all Sunday matinees; available at If the Shoe Fits, 21 N. Market St. in Wailuku, and online at www.mauionstage.com.
Moving from the'60s to the '70s, Seabury Hall Performing Arts gets in the groove with its annual Dance Showcase, wrapping up this weekend.
Maui poet and playwright Pat Masumoto shares a new way to honor Mother's Day with "My Mama Monologues," a collection of true stories from people of all ages and nationalities. The event - which honors Masumoto's own mother in her 100th year - premieres at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater on Saturday, May 9. Some of the pieces are written and read by Maui residents, including students, teachers, artists and musicians; while some are from as far away as England. Masumoto describes the stories as "ticklish, teary, bristly and heroic" - not too different from motherhood itself. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children and students. For more information, visit www.MyMamaMonologues.com.
Maui OnStage will hold auditions from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday for this summer's production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
Kristi Scott will direct the musical about the rise and fall of the legendary Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas. Roles are open to all singers and dancers, both experienced and new to the stage. The play opens July 10 and runs through Aug. 2. To reserve an audition slot, call 244-8680, ext. 23.