'And action!" the director calls, and the homey front porch in Maycomb, Ala., comes alive as the actors of "To Kill a Mockingbird" begin their first run-through of Act I. Watching rehearsal from the back row of the empty Iao Theater, notebook in hand, all I can think is, "I'm gonna miss this."
This will be my last "Backstage" column before my husband, daughter and I move to Oregon on Friday.
Three years ago, I took over the performing arts beat from a line of talented writers beginning with Ron Youngblood, Paul Janes-Brown and Jule Wind. My background was in objective journalism, and the idea of sharing my personal opinions on a regular basis was daunting, especially when it came to Maui's thriving theater scene.
Maui OnStage photo
Siblings Zeb and Marley Mehring play Jem and Scout Finch with Jennifer Rose as Miss Maudie in Maui OnStage’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
KARRIE LASATER photo
Conrad Birdie (Dylan Bode) excites his fans, Janolan Endrina (clockwise from left), Haylie Warren, Kim MacAfee, Kela Strickland and Julianna Scharnhorst in Baldwin High School’s “Bye Bye Birdie.”
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
Marnie Masuda takes over the Backstage column next week.
But I was thrilled by the opportunity to be of service - both to the performing arts community by bringing well-deserved notice to their efforts, and to readers by letting them know what to expect and sharing the experience for those who could not attend.
As it turned out, Maui's talented performers made my job easy for me. Night after night, show after show, I've been amazed and impressed by the quality of theater on our island. From drama to musicals, dance to comedy, Shakespeare to Steinbeck, people on both sides of the curtain poured their hearts into their work with remarkable results. Despite challenging times, the dedication and quality have never flagged; instead, organizations have found new, creative ways to share their gifts.
As I pack my boxes and prepare to move closer to family, I'm sad to be leaving the Maui 'ohana which has shared so much aloha with me. I'm grateful to Maui's theater community and to The Maui News and my wonderful editor, Rick Chatenever, for giving me unconditional support. Mahalo to Steve and Day for putting up with Mom always going out to "another show"! Most of all, mahalo to you for reading my column and letting me be the one in the back row with the notebook these last few years.
* "To Kill a Mockingbird" opens Friday, March 5, at the Historic Iao Theater. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., through March 21. Tickets are $16 to $18; available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku, Lava Java in Kihei, or online at www.mauion stage.com. Youth groupsare invited at a reduced rate of $10 per ticket for groups of 10 or more (age 18 and younger; advance reservations required). For more information, call 244-6969.
It's been a privilege and a joy.
The bright-eyed Mehring siblings, Marley and Zeb, star as brother and sister, Scout and Jem Finch, in the Maui OnStage production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," opening next weekend at the Historic Iao Theater.
When they sat down to talk story with me at last week's rehearsal, they were eager to share their new passion for theater, which began with their debut in "The Sound of Music" last year.
"We decided we just love it!" says 9-year-old Marley. "In every play, I've met people I will never forget."
Twelve-year-old Zeb acknowledges that "Mockingbird" is a lot more serious than a Rogers & Hammerstein musical, but "it's still fun in a totally different way," he says. "There's just not as much laughing!"
Set in the sultry South in the 1930s, the play is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Harper Lee about racial injustice and heroism. Even 50 years after Lee wrote it, the book is still required reading in many high school English classes.
Director Alexis Dascoulias actually used to teach "Mockingbird" to high school sophomores. Now that she's directing it, she likes to describe it as "broccoli theater"-maybe not the most popular, sure-to-pack-the-seats show, but something of social importance that's good for viewers to see and understand.
As for the awful "n-word," yes, the actors do say it onstage. "It is history, and you can't change what happened," Dascoulias says. "Part of the point of the story is to show what it was like it shows where we came from."
Much of the action focuses on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Scout and Jem's father, Atticus (played by Don Carlson), is the wise attorney who takes on the job of defending Tom, despite the violent racial prejudice that saturates the small town.
It's a weighty story, but one that ultimately carries a message of hope, especially in light of how far we've come since then. "The story is not so much about race but about your conscience, and about right and wrong," Dascoulias says.
The Mehring siblings agree. "It's a way to show how people should be treated," Marley says. "It's a glimpse of the past and what should never happen again."
"Never!" Zeb echoes firmly.
"It's truly rapturous to study calculus!" proclaim "The Learned Ladies" of one of Moliere's funniest comedies. Todd Van Amburgh directs the Seabury Hall Performing Arts cast in this farce about a household that loses sight of reality in the quest for "learned-ness." This modern adaptation features contemporary language but retains the 17th- century French playwright's charming cadence. Costume designer Marsha Kelly adds beehive wigs for a fun 1950s flavor.
* "The Learned Ladies" opens Friday and runs two weekends at the Seabury Hall Performance Studio in Makawao. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with one matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, and $5 for students; available by calling 573-1257.
Linda Carnevale directs a cast of 42 students and 15 crew members in "Bye Bye Birdie" at Baldwin High School, opening Friday, March 5. The Tony Award-winning musical is about a rock 'n' roll star and the girl who's been chosen to give him his last kiss on national TV before he joins the army. Musical direction is by Bob Wills, orchestra direction by Stephen Rodrigues, and choreography by Andre Morissette.
* "Bye Bye Birdie" runs two weekends, March 5 through 14, at Baldwin Auditorium. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, March 13. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors, $7 for age 17 and younger; available at the box office 45 minutes before showtime. There will be a "Gala Night All American Dinner" fundraiser on Saturday, March 6, at the Starlight Theatre Caf on campus. The gala includes pre-show entertainment, dinner and door prizes, starting at 5:30 p.m. Gala tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, $8 for children (age 10 and younger); available by calling 984-5656, ext. 315.
This is not your ordinary puppet show. Hawaii-born writer and director Tom Lee brings his captivating portrayal of "Ko'olau: A True Story of Kaua'i" to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Using puppetry that calls forth the beauty of the Hawaiian landscape and language, Lee tells the legendary story of Kaluaiko'olau, who fled with his wife and son in the Kalalau Valley of Kauai in the 1890s to avoid deportation to a leper colony. The stunning production features hand-carved puppets in the kuruma ningyo style (wheeled puppet theater of Japan), along with live shadow and video projection inspired by Hawaiian woodcut carving, and live musical accompaniment. Recommended for ages 13 and older.
* Showtime is 5 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Tickets are $22. 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.
I'm pleased to pass the "Backstage" torch to a very talented member of Maui's writing community, Marnie Masuda.
By way of introduction, she writes: Marnie Masuda shares an old house in Wailuku with her husband, two children, an enormous dog, a guinea pig and an ancient crustacean. When she's not writing, she likes forcing others to write - namely, the students in her composition and creative writing classes at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
Marnie earned her master's degree in English from University of California, Irvine in 1997. She is an avid theater-goer, a music and art enthusiast - and a bit of a wine snob, much to her beer-drinking husband's dismay. She looks forward to sharing her passion for the arts with Maui News readers.
Please send your performing arts information to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.