Free is a good thing these days. Even better is something that educates, enlightens, involves and entertains. The 2009 Storytelling Festival at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center next weekend is all these things - and yes, it's free!
Hosted by kumu hula and MACC cultural programs director, Hokulani Holt, the festival will feature four master Hawaiian storytellers: Tom Cummings, Nalani Kanaka'ole, Kekuhi Keali'ikanaka'ole and Kalama Cabigon. They will share works inspired by the epic tale of Hi'iakaikapoliopele, tying in with the theme of the invitational art exhibit on display through Oct. 24 in the MACC's Schaefer International Gallery.
As it has evolved over the years, the Storytelling Festival exemplifies the idea that "storytelling is for all of us," Holt says. Since its beginnings as a series of workshops in 2003, the festival has grown to incorporate different aspects of the cultural craft. In 2004, the MACC added an evening performance, and in 2007, more than 160 4th- and 5th-grade students from Waihe'e School took the stage to perform Hawaiian stories they had learned in a storytelling residency program.
Maui Arts & Cultural Center photo
Kalama Cabigon iis one of the participants in the 2009 Storytelling Festival at the MACC.
This year's event on Saturday, Oct. 17, delves deeper into Hawaiian legend by exploring tales from "Hi'iakaikapoliopele, Ka Mo'olelo O Hi'iakaikapoliopele." The favorite younger sister of volcano goddess Pele, Hi'iaka was regarded as a healer, a source of inspiration and an icon of hula traditions. Armed with a magical skirt made of pala'a fern and endowed with the forces of their crater home, Hi'iaka traveled to Kauai to bring back handsome chief Lohi'auipo. Her adventures were described by writer Ho'oulumahiehie and published as a daily series from 1905 to '06 in the Hawaiian-language newspaper Ka Na'i Aupuni.
The four storytellers are not only experts in their craft but practitioners of their culture. Longtime Bishop Museum storyteller Tom Cummings has been sharing stories for over 40 years, practicing an art that he learned from his mother and now passes on to his children and grandchildren. He often draws the audience into his stories with the use of objects, images and puppets.
Nalani Kanaka'ole is the daughter of acclaimed kumu hula and chanter Edith Kanaka'ole, who passed away in 1979. Together with her sister Pualani Kanahele, Nalani now carries on her mother's legacy as a kumu hula of Halau 'O Kekuhi, which is based in Hilo and recognized as guardians of strong, Pele-related hula.
Showtime is 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. Tickets are $20, $30 and $40. 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.
Helping Nalani to carry on that legacy is Kekuhi Keali'ikanaka'ole, eldest of Pualanai's three children, who is also a kumu hula with Halau 'O Kekuhi. A recording artist, educator and composer, Kekuhi brings the deep meaning of generations into the stories that she shares.
Kalama Cabigon is a storyteller, chanter, musician, actor, slam poet and student of kumu hula John Keola Lake. His gift with language has led him to present stories in Hawaiian and English at the Mary Kawena Pukui Storytelling Festival at the Bishop Museum, and to tour and perform Hawaiian-language plays with KaHalau Hanakeaka.
The storytellers will perform from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Schaefer Gallery against a backdrop of the creative works of 11 accomplished Hawaiian artists, all relating to the story of "Hi'iakaikapoliopele." In addition, the artwork of a select group of 'Iao Intermediate School 7th-graders will be displayed next-door in the Alexa Higashi Meeting Room.
That evening brings a visual reminder of Hi'iaka's legacy - a celebration of hula. Specifically, Halau Kekuaokala'au'ala'iliahi under the leadership of na kumu hula 'Iliahi and Haunani Paredes as they celebrate their fifth anniversary with Ke'ala'iliahi 2009. The event features more than 150 dancers honoring kumu hula O'Brian Eselu, Keali'i Reichel, Uluwehi Guerrero, Aunty Pat Namaka Bacon, and the late Thaddius Wilson. Music is by award-winning Holunape, with special appearances by Reichel, Eselu and others.
As famous today as they were 400 years ago, the star-crossed lovers of "Romeo and Juliet" never cease to draw an audience. Shakespeare's timeless tale will be presented by Seabury Hall Performing Arts in a beautiful outdoor setting at Cooper House Courtyard, opening Friday night. Seabury alum and veteran Shakespeare performer Cassandra Wormser directs a cast of 20 students that features Nick Wright and Deni Harrelson as Romeo and Juliet, along with Skyla Lowery, Chara'e Tongg, Hayden Ezzy, Zowie Haugaard, Tatiana Bradley, Kai Spence, Sidney Roberts and Ryan Noufer. The play is set during the late Italian Renaissance, with a fine array of traditional costumes, dancing, music and sword fighting.
* "Romeo and Juliet" runs two weekends through Oct. 18: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, $5 for students. Seating is limited, and audience members are advised to dress warmly. For reservations and more information, call 573-1257.
In response to the furlough days in public schools,Maui Academy of Performing Arts is offering three new Furlough Fridays Drama Camps for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Modeled after MAPA's popular fall- and spring-break drama camps, the camps involve the students in drama games, storytelling and character explorations. Two camps will be held in Wailuku at the MAPA building (2027 Main St.), and one on the west side at MAPA's new studio in Kahana Gateway Shopping Center. Times are 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, 30, Nov. 6, 20, Dec. 4, 11, 18, Jan. 15, 29, Feb. 5, 12, March 5, 12, April 23, 30, May 7 and 14. Parents can register for one or more furlough days at a time. Tuition is $40 per day. To register or for more information, visit www.mauiacademy. org or contact Carolyn Wright, MAPA director of programs, at 244-8760, ext. 221.