Imagine you could step back in time. What would it be like to be a guest in Lahaina's Baldwin Home in the mid-1800s? To be greeted by Mrs. Baldwin in her lacy kerchief and to dine by candlelight in the gracious dining room with the windows open to the evening breeze? To hear the shouts of sailors in the streets and the melodious sounds of the Hawaiian language being spoken among natives and missionaries?
The answer is: no one knows.
"No one alive today has eaten dinner in the Baldwin House, although it's been open for the last 50 years," says Theo Morrison, executive director of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation.
Maui Communicators photo
Lahaina’s historic Baldwin House provides the setting for Louisa Sheldon dressed as Charlotte Baldwin and Merriman’s Executive Chef Philip Wang to get in the spirit of the upcoming Lahaina Restoration Progressive Dinner Party.
That's all about to change as LRF gears up for its first Progressive Dinner Party on May 22 and 23. While Maui chefs prepare a sumptuous four-course meal to be served in four historic sites, backstage, Katherine Cloutier directs a cast of 22 local actors in a script she has pulled straight from the pages of history.
"This is addictive," Cloutier says, patting one of the thick spiral-bound volumes that she used for research. "It's better than a sitcom because it's real!" Known as the Windley Files, the set of 13 volumes contains detailed records of purchases, transactions and incidents from the Baldwin era.
The files are also where costume designer Sharon Fredy began her research. "From the entries, we know what muslins, cloth and lace that Mrs. Baldwin ordered," Fredy says. "When I started this project, I thought whalers were all scruffy and ragged, but they were actually very well put together, with long sleeves and caps. The captains wanted them to look respectable."
That's not to say that the sailors never got rowdy. Cloutier found in her research a litany of fines for infractions like "hard riding" - often brought about by over-consumption of rum. Writing scripts for each of the four sites, Cloutier says she had fun "re-imagining" Lahaina history, creating characters and dialogue to weave into the scenes.
While Cloutier readied her whalers and missionaries, Fredy scoured the costume racks of Theatre Theatre Maui and Maui Academy of Performing Arts for attire. What she couldn't find, she made, organizing sewing bees to create aprons and sashes.
She and Cloutier discovered that when the actors donned their costumes, a transformation took place. "They really became their characters!" Fredy says. A good thing, since many of the actors will be required to improvise outside of the script. "In order to converse with the visitors, they have to know their own back stories," Cloutier says.
Although the theatrical elements will be kept as authentic as possible, it won't be "heavy duty history," according to Cloutier, but an enjoyable evening full of humorous touches.
If the inaugural event goes well, Morrison hopes it will be the first of many more historic reenactments in Lahaina. "It's a wonderful way for the local people to relive some of the rich history of the area," Morrison says.
* LRF's Progressive Dinner Party will have four seatings: at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23. Tickets are $135 per person (21 and older only); available by calling 661-3262 or online at www.lahainarestoration.org Proceeds benefit the scholarship fund for Lahainaluna High School.
The tireless Thespians at Baldwin High School are at it again - this time with a comedic mystery play staged in the Loudon Mini-Theatre in back of campus. "Death by Dessert" follows the longstanding feud between the Donnaducce and Duccedonni families in New York's Little Italy. The families operate competing Italian restaurants that share a common wall. When the building's landlord is found dead, everyone is a suspect - and audience members must cast their vote for "whodunnit." The show is a fundraiser for the Thespians' Broadway trip this June.
* "Death by Dessert" opens Saturday and runs through May 17; at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 16. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, $6 for students (17 and under); available at the door 45 minutes before showtime or through any cast member.
Maui OnStage honors moms with a Mother's Day special for "Steel Magnolias" at the Historic Iao Theater. "Moms go free" with the purchase of one ticket for the 3 p.m. Sunday matinee (on the honor system). Based on a real-life story of a family's struggle with diabetes, "Steel Magnolias" shares the wit and wisdom of six strong Southern women.
"It reminds us of the best and worst life has to offer, and ultimately helps us have gratitude for life 'as-is!'" says director Jennifer Rose.
n "Steel Magnolias" runs through Sunday, 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
In celebration of her amazing 100-year-old mother, Florence Shizuko Hasegawa, Maui playwright Pat Masumoto has spent the past six months collecting stories about moms. The results will be made public in the inaugural "My Mama Monologues," taking place at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Masumoto hopes the event will continue to grow yearly, adding new stories and retelling the "keepers" every Mother's Day to come. Participants are invited to send in their stories for Mother's Day 2010, or to contact Masumoto for information about producing a reading at www.MyMamaMonologues.com.
n Tickets are $20, $15 for kids and students. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org
St. Anthony Junior Senior High School presents the "Second Annual Blue and Gold Variety Show" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 15. Director Virginia Sandell promises an "old school" event, featuring dancers, singers, music and comedy acts from faculty and staff - with special focus on the graduating seniors. The event will take place outdoors in the school's science quad. For more information, contact Sandell at email@example.com
Keali'i Reichel directs "Art of the Chanter" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the MACC's Castle Theater. The extraordinary program features oli by kumu hula and Hawaiian practitioners, including some chants that have not been heard for more than 100 years and have only recently been discovered in Hawaiian language newspapers.
* Tickets are $12 to $40, half-price for kids 12 and younger.
La Practica Tango Argentino presents a full week of tango workshops and performances beginning on Sunday. Guest stars Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo will lead the dancing, with a Grand Milonga from 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, May 16, at The Studio Maui in Haiku. For more information, visit lapracticatango.blogspot.com
Visiting tap phenom Chloe Arnold will teach tap dance classes for all levels on Saturday, May 16, at Kula Underground, and on Sunday, May 17, at the MACC's Omori Studio A. For more information, call 878-1482 or visit www.MauiTapExperience.org